Personal Velocity

Personal Velocity


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Occasionally a unique talent rises like Scorpio from the ranks of the purely competent. Rebecca Miller may be playwright Arthur's daughter and Daniel Day-Lewis's wife, but you have to forget that. She is herself.

Personal Velocity is three short stories about women. The only criticism of the author's adaptation from her book is that it remains literary, rather than cinematic, with too much emphasis on voice-over narrative. However, the language is beautiful.

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Miller's imagination appears steadfastly original. Her use of flashback memory, still photography and thought bites has a freshness that defies innocence. Unlike Tarantino and Spielberg, she seems oblivious of what has gone before, breaking rules she didn't know existed and taking risks film school graduates would be afraid to try.

Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) lost her virginity aged 12, became the school slut and enjoyed the power she had over boys. "Delia could stop traffic with that ass," the narrator says. She marries a violent man, who beats her, and has three kids. One night, after being punched in the face and locked in the bathroom, she gathers the children and escapes into the dark. Her life is bruised, her future bleak. "Have you ever been in love with a man who hates you?" she asks. The question hurts.

Greta (Parker Posey) is married to a fact-checker at The New Yorker, who softens the edges of their life together by being too nice. "She felt ambition leak out of her like a lanced boil." Unexpectedly, she is promoted in the publishing house where she edits cookery books and put in charge of a fashionable young novelist who is all the rage. The adrenaline of success sharpens her responses and she feels temptation's claws scratching at her heart.

Paula (Fairuza Balk) is on the run. She has left her Haitian boyfriend in Brooklyn and is driving upstate to her mother's, she's not sure why. She's pregnant, but says she won't keep the baby. She remembers running away from home as a kid, after her father left, and walking through empty streets with a Norwegian years later in the early morning, half drunk, when he is hit by a truck. Now she's driving and she picks up a tortured boy who has cuts all over his body. Her life follows pain, it seems. There is no direction, only the residue of disappointment.

The performances are outstanding, particularly Sedgwick. The film is strong, despite its catalogue of confusion. These women are instinctive, contradictory, surprising. Love bleeds, staining the narrative. It is not men they require; it's recognition of their true value.

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2003
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Personal Velocity packshot
Three short stories about women and their yearning for freedom.
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Director: Rebecca Miller

Writer: Rebecca Miller, based on the book by Rebecca Miller

Starring: Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey, Fairuza Balk, Tim Guinee, Lou Taylor Pucci, Wallace Shawn

Year: 2002

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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