Female Eye 2014: Looking is the Original Sin – Film Review

Director: Gail Harvey
Writer: Gail Harvey
Cast: Katie Boland, Maria del Mar, Jayne Eastwood, Kent Staines, Dewshane Williams
Runtime: 83 min
Rating: NR

Some films become an art piece, while others showcase the art it aims to spotlight. Looking is the Original Sin does both, capturing both the eye of the director and the art that fuels the characters within.

Directed by Gail Harvey, Looking is the Original Sin follows Anna (Katie Boland) as she goes on a journey to understand her mother Helene (Maria del Mar) and her rather complex, deteriorating life. Supported on the way by family friend Brent (Kent Staines) and boyfriend Daniel (Dewshane Williams), Anna steps on a path that not only uncovers the secrets of her mothers life, but her own identity as well.

Looking is the Original Sin

There is a lot one can experience and feel through Harvey’s latest creative effort. Inspiration has been taken from the life of New York City photographer Diane Arbus, known for her black and white photography work. While that is a source of inspiration for crafting the overall story, the production itself is much closer to home. What audiences get to experience is the beauty of photography through philosophy and definition, and how one person who becomes so involved in the field, can start treading on a different, dangerous path. What I really love about the production is just how much of Gail Harvey is within the film. Her personal love of photography, family photos, and her close relationship with Toronto are all showcased within the 83 minutes of screen time. In addition, the film has a cool vintage vibe to it, enhanced by the black and white photography of course, and the trendy locations used as sets.

If there is one thing you should look forward to, its the performances by the cast. Maria del Mar presents this powerful, creative figure who is very good in her field, but is tragically lost within the mental state that she is in. Del Mar does an amazing job between balancing Helene’s motherly side in contrast to her obnoxious behaviour. Katie Boland excels past her reputation as a rising star, creating a down-to-earth, believable character, who is struggling with societal burdens, the need for a mother, and the need to be comforted at times of personal trial. With all that said, one character that really stood out, sometimes even more than the primary two, was Kent Staines’ life-loving Brent. In all his crazy right, Brent is the kind of character that adds perspective to a situation, fuel-to-the-fire sometimes, and even someone to vent ones thoughts to, and having a character like him gave the production a reality check of life. Kent Staines’ performance is just brilliant.

Looking is the Original Sin

Harvey’s personal connection goes one-step further with the inclusion of her daughter, Katie Boland, as part of the cast. Harvey has collaborated with many of these individuals over the years, but her powerful relationship and collaboration history with her daughter definitely shows within this production. In fact, if one looks with a keen eye, the production is more a portrait of Harvey than anyone else. While the story is fictionalized, the strong emphasis on the mother-daughter relationship is very much made personal. At various moments in the film, you really feel like Maria del Mar is channeling a little bit of Gail Harvey to the screen, and Katie Boland is just being herself. That minutely open window into her life, and having knowledge of that, really makes this an interesting film.

The one thing that could have been refined is the story. While it could be followed, it didn’t offer the pace you necessarily expected. You could appreciate the moments where conflicts dissolved almost instantaneously, because in reality, you can’t really be mad at your mother for too long over a small fight. However, scenes of intensity could have been made more intense through added dialogue. Some of these issues may even be resolved by shortening some of the scenes.

Looking is the Original Sin

This isn’t a perfect film, but neither is any piece of art an artist makes. Brilliance is really an opinion formed by a select number of people, and generally, anything that doesn’t follow that notion isn’t right, and that is just not correct. This film has a lot of interesting elements that you will come to embrace and enjoy. It is like a picture on canvas without the frame to go with it, a raw expression of emotions and art. Sometimes being left in just thought and emotion is a good thing.