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Review: Until Branches Bend


- Sophie Jarvis's first feature is a gripping and sensitive drama about the rebellion of nature against the arrogance of a humanity that believes itself invincible

Review: Until Branches Bend
Grace Glowicki and Alexandra Roberts in Until Branches Bend

After Toronto, Vancouver and Tallinn, Sophie Jarvis's compelling first feature Until Branches Bend [+see also:
film profile
screened at the Solothurn Film Festival where it competed for the Prix de Soleure. At once poetic and violent, Until Branches Bend immerses the audience in an unexpected, sensual and mysterious universe in which nature slowly shows its mystifying face. Seemingly bucolic and luxuriant, enveloped in a lysergic cloak of warmth, the landscapes of the Okanagan (British Columbia), skilfully filmed by the director in majestic 16 mm film, in reality conceal a violence that will not be long in manifesting itself.

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Light years away from a naive view of nature, Sophie Jarvis shows us how violent and devastating nature can actually be if provoked. Determined to rebel against a narcissistic and selfish humanity that forcefully imposes its domination, the nature filmed by Jarvis slowly but surely prepares its revenge. Embodying this revolutionary and indomitable spirit are the film's two protagonists, Robin and her sister Laney, a sort of Canadian Thelma and Louise who decide to leave everything behind and set off on an adventure, towards an uncertain future that attracts rather than frightens.

Set in the seemingly tranquil region of the Okanagan, Sophie Jarvis's debut film sets the scene for a cannery worker, Robin (played with great skill by Grace Glowicki, Rising Star of TIFF 2016), who is in charge of controlling the quality of peaches, the region's favoured crop. Her universe is turned upside down when she discovers the presence of an invasive insect right inside one of these peaches, an insect that could threaten the livelihood of the entire town. Determined to shed light on the matter, Robin alerts her boss (Lochlyn Munro) who feigns indifference and states that the discovery does not frighten him. Troubled by a phenomenon she interprets as a sign of impending danger, Robin decides to investigate on her own. This triggers a chain reaction that jeopardises not only the stability of an entire community but also her social position within it.

Meanwhile, the protagonist discovers she is pregnant, an unwanted pregnancy she does not intend to carry to term. Independent and enigmatic, Robin resolutely defends her decision to alert the population to the potential threat of an insect she considers highly dangerous. This alienates her from her colleagues but also from her younger sister Laney (an astonishing Alexandra Roberts) who dreams of a different, adventurous and free life.

Until Branches Bend presents itself on the surface as a restrained drama, almost glacial despite the Okanagan summer heat. Within it, however, simmers and struggles a supernatural psychological thriller reminiscent of the cruel beauty of Dario Argento's Phenomena (the scene in which Robin opens her arms wide in a sort of Franciscan reminiscence as insects permeate the atmosphere is particularly memorable) or the inner horror of David Cronenberg (Robin seems to be giving birth to a peach, or perhaps it is just a miscarriage experienced with cathartic liberation).

Jarvis stages her own interpretation of an existential crisis that is mixed with an ecological revolt that is both violent and cathartic. Until Branches Bend is about what lies deep inside each one of us, about the thirst for freedom of a female character who undoes gender stereotypes, a 'nature' that has been imposed on her by society. What Robin wants is to rediscover herself, the intimate bond she has with her own animality but also with her sister, her life companion but also and above all her companion in struggle.

Until Branches Bend is produced by Canadian companies Experimental Forest Film, Ceroma Films and Reign Films and Swiss companies Cinédokké and RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera. Italy's TVCO is handling international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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