Tribeca Film Festival 2013
By Don Simpson | April 22, 2013
Director: Matt Creed
Writers: Amy Grantham, Matt Creed
Starring: Amy Grantham, Simon Chaput, Lindsay Burdge, Rebecca Street, Benjamin Slater, Zachary Unger
Lily (Amy Grantham) is nearing the end of radiation treatment for breast cancer. Her hair has grown about an inch since she stopped chemotherapy, but she still insists upon donning a brown wig. Along with a frumpy brown coat and hoodie, the wig seems to be an essential part of a non-descript wardrobe that Lily chooses to hide beneath. The attire kind of lends Lily the likeness of a vagrant — oh, and that’s totally not intended as an insult (considering Lily’s affinity for New York City’s more eclectic inhabitants, she might even take the comparison as a compliment).
Stuck in an existential quagmire that would put a grimace on Sartre’s face, Lily is unhappy about practically every aspect of her life — she presents her best friend (Lindsay Burdge) with a laundry list of reasons. First and foremost, cancer has caused Lily to stop living her life and focus only on her treatment. Now that the treatment is coming to an end, Lily must prepare herself to re-enter the world. That is a very scary prospect for a visual artist with no current source of income and an overwhelming amount of medical debt (because, of course, as an artist Lily has no medical insurance). This plunge back into reality comes with the trepidation of knowing that she will always have the genetically-inherited BRCA2 mutation that has made her more susceptible to cancer, so Lily could very easily find herself in this very same predicament once again.
Lily has been living with a much older man, Aaron (Simon Chaput), and his two young boys (Benjamin Slater, Zachary Unger). That is not to say that Aaron is Lily’s sugar-daddy — actually, she refuses Aaron’s offers to assist with her medical bills. They are lovers, though it is difficult to determine Lily’s level of interest in their relationship. She might really love Aaron, or he could just have been the only available safety net for her during a desperate time. We learn very little about their relationship, though the emotional unavailability of Lily’s father suggests the possibility of “daddy issues.”
Lily may be ready and waiting for psychiatric analysis, but don’t expect Amy Grantham and Matt Creed’s script to reveal anything. We enter the story in medias res and we exit it with very limited resolution. So, not only is Lily a melancholy portrait of a young female artist confronted by cancer, but it is one that offers very few answers. Being that Grantham has recently conquered breast cancer and is haunted by the BRCA2 mutation, Lily offers an incredibly unique and intimate glimpse inside the mind of a young woman who is not only wrestling with the evil specter of cancer, but is also struggling to regain her identity and life. If that is not reason enough to watch Lily, then Grantham’s break-out performance as Lily certainly is.
Whether purposefully or not, Lily’s Jean Seberg-esque (circa Breathless) natural hairstyle and the Chantal Goya-esque (circa Masculin Féminin) wig help transform Lily into an iconic Godardian heroine; though, Lily’s situation and personality seem a bit more in line with Anna Karina’s characters in A Woman Is a Woman and Vivre Sa Vie. In fact, Creed’s perspective is not all that different than Jean-Luc Godard’s in the early 1960s. Lily is a hyper-realistic slice of life, focusing on a feminine story that is rarely represented in cinema. Godard’s early films may not deal so blatantly with women’s health issues but they do represent the female struggle for financial security and independence; and just as Godard always questioned how men could fit into the equation, we are left contemplating Aaron’s role in Lily. Lily has needed Aaron for so long because of the security that he provided during her cancer treatments; now that she does not need that same level of security anymore, what role is Aaron going to play in her life? Then again, who cares about Aaron? The audience has all just fallen head over heels in love with Lily and we now want to know what happens to her…