Reviewed by: Paz Newis

Other than the name of the lead character, why is this film called Palindromes?

Todd Solodnz starts with the funeral of Dawn, who was the protagonist in his earlier film Storytelling. Dawn has taken her own life and may have been date raped.

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I have only seen Happiness, which has moments of humour that are very very black. By comparison, Palindromes is not so dark. The themes it deals with are similar to Happiness. This time, Aviva is a 12-year-old girl, Dawn's cousin, who wants to have a baby.

In the first scene, she is even younger and played by a black girl. Ellen Barkin is her mom, which makes me think, "Well, she's clearly adopted." This establishes a character dynamic. In the next scene, Aviva is played by a different actress. Yes, a young girl, but now white. And in a later scene, ginger haired. For me, this says, "OK, you are Ellen's daughter, but are you her biological daughter?"

It is easy to dismiss this as a superficial gimmick, but for me it is a worthy experiment on a couple of levels. First, it means the traumatic nature of the role is not "inflicted" on a single young actress and secondly it makes us think beyond the confines of a single situation and ask, "How common are these events?" Another interesting choice is Jennifer Jason Leigh, taking a segment of Aviva, playing the role of a girl some decades younger. Despite such conceits, it is easy to follow the character's development, and willingly suspend your disbelief.

Aviva almost gets her wish, but her parents force her to terminate the pregnancy. When the operation ends in an awful complication, this is a tragic event of enormous scale and the crux of the film's black joke on Aviva. If you allow that she is adopted, her assertion that, "If I have a baby, I'll always have someone to love," makes perfect sense. If she has no true family, she can create her own.

There are no resolutions. We enter Aviva's life as she is having a nightmare and that is where we leave it. The actors are all excellent and the filmmaking is technically competent, with moments of brilliance, which goes to support the broader issues that Solondz forces us to acknowledge. Family, Religion, Race, Abuse, Abusers, Abused, Blame, Guilt, Retribution, Perversion, Love.

It is a hell of a world and these events are the tip of an iceberg. Presenting it unadorned, with a few laughs along the way, is some achievement.

I ask: Why, Todd? What happened to you? Or someone you loved?

Reviewed on: 07 Oct 2005
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The strange tale of an abused teenage girl, played by a cast of eight.
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Read more Palindromes reviews:

Chris ****
Angus Wolfe Murray **

Director: Todd Solondz

Writer: Todd Solondz

Starring: Ellen Barkin, Richard Masur, Matthew Faber, Angela Pietropinto, Bill Buell, Debra Monk, Sharon Wilkins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Valerie Shusterov, Hannah Freiman, Will Denton, Rachel Corr, Shayna Levine

Year: 2004

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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