Tatiana Maslany is a character. And not in the way where she will sometimes enjoys ending sentences with sounds rather than words (though that did happen), but rather as an actress. Maslany’s talent comes from her ability to create and embody characters in a way that feels uniquely whole and all her own. And for fans who’ve come to know her from her work as an ass-kicking, name-taking set of clones on BBC America’s Orphan Black, it may be a surprise to see her play someone without a bunch of other lookalikes defining her existence. But relationships play just as vital — if not moreso — a part in the life misguided youth Claire from the new film, Picture Day.
Picture Day is the directorial debut effort of Kate Melville and has already received numerous accolades and wins at several international film festivals. It’s a quiet, narrative-focused film that provides very little instruction to the viewer as to how they should feel (as so many modern films do). Instead, your personal experience and relation to the characters provides a unique viewing to each person that watches it. Which in turn mirrors the relationships these characters have to each other, and to Claire — everyone sees a different side to her. There’s Jim the dreamy musician-boyfriend, and Henry, a kid-no-longer that she used to babysit. Repeating her senior year of high school, she is pulled in two very different directions by these two men, with her mother the cautionary tale foil for the life you could see Claire easily falling into.
For Maslany, Picture Day is very much “about the way these characters bump up against each other. The way that these dynamics shift and are tested. And that’s what I loved about it … It’s a story where you don’t have to follow a plot. It’s about the interactions, and those are my favorite kinds of films.”
It’s an intimate look at that awkward time in life when teens are often unsure of who to be, or what potential they might have. Often the hardest struggle is deciding to merely fall into the expectations set before you, or buck against what you know. But choosing, ultimately, is the most important part. We see that in the way Claire surrounds herself with music. Discussing a scene where Claire’s walking through the streets of the city, she explains: “She’s there, but she’s not engaged in her surroundings. She’s just a bit removed and I think that kind of epitomizes her and her life. She’s in it, but she’s not.”
In a film that focuses almost entirely on Claire and how those outside forces inform her life and her choices, it’s easiest to empathize in those lingering adolescent moments where Claire just attempts to muddle through her days. Her relationship to the outside world and those around her are wholly created in their intimacy. These pre-existing views on Claire’s personality cause an internal battle that plays out wonderfully. At one point in the film, Henry yells at Claire “they all think you’re sad,” referring to their peers. Claire, of course, denies this — as any good, young, mixed-up kid who thinks she’s got it right will do — but it’s that sadness so poignantly on display during the recount of a particular story she presents as “funny.” The faces of Jim’s band members (real-life Canadian band The Elastocitizens) prove that it is decidedly not.
But it’s the intimacy of human relations where Maslany understands her character best, and where her acting really soars. Claire’s story is a rumination on how teens and young adults deal with the fact that one day, everything great about being young will go away. Suddenly life catches up and “what you imagine for your life is suddenly very different,” Maslany explained. Those moments of insecurity are often when people reach out to others most, “and that’s what Kate [Melville, the director] really wanted to explore. How image affects relationships and about how growing up affects relationships.”
But don’t expect this to be a love story. Because life is nowhere near that cut and dry, and — as Maslany puts it — Henry and Claire’s is a relationship that’s “way more important and way more intimate and way more vital then some immediate romantic doo-da-lee-doo.” And yes, she really did end her sentence with a doo-da-lee-doo.
Picture Day opens in theaters on May 21, 2013.