In Review – ‘Stillness’ by Rachel Fowler

It is reported that there are 9 stillbirths every day in the UK. ‘Stillness’ follows the journey of a photographer who strives to support a new family as they struggle with their loss. The following article contains content which might be difficult for some to read and watch.

‘Stillness’ is an admirably brave and powerful directorial debut by filmmaker Rachel Fowler that draws on her own personal experience with grief and pain and explores the rarely broached topic of the acute loss of stillbirth. As the process helped Rachel deal with her own complex and deep-seated sadness and from the recent loss of her young nephew, she hopes the film can do the same for audiences, help to promote openness and start a much needed conversation. 

The film opens to constant and almost soothing mutterings that are instantly recognisable as a hospital, a background that frames two pained faces. After a brief but knowing look of understanding between the two, we are taken down endless corridors, muted greys and fire escape doors to a room where grief is physically palpable and we discover the photographer’s purpose.

The cast of ‘Stillness’ are all stellar in their unique and nuanced performances, but Caitlin FitzGerald deserves standalone praise for the depth and unfathomable empathy she brings to the role. We understand without being explicitly told that there is more to her own story, why this act is important to her and what she is offering to this couple. Rachel’s writing is subtle yet packs a punch; she is able to say so much without intense dialogue and as the camera moves around the room and both the mother and father are given the time and space to express their own feelings during what must be the worst time of their lives.

Beyond the subject matter, ‘Stillness’ is an apt title  given the film’s meticulous edit that lets us hear every breath of our characters. We can hear their tears and the choking up of their emotions.. Rachel made an excellent  choice in having no score until the final moment when we leave the room and a song gently comes in to follow our photographer walking back through the corridors and doors to her safe space and the arms of her partner. 

Cold and grey cinematography and no tricks or trades of the industry – this is pure filmmaking at its best. Rachel’s background as an actor and knowledge of the inner workings of film and the processes behind the scenes shines through to make this an utterly compelling short film, highlighting an unbelievably difficult and strong subject in a way that  people can engage with . ‘Stillness’ has been produced by production house Five Fifty Five, and will be screening this year at Brighton Rocks 2023, 20 – 25 June. 

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