DIR/WRI: Tom Ryan • PRO: Fionn Greger • DOP: Kevin Minogue • ED: Matthew Supersad • DES: Damian Draven • MUS: Patrizio Knight • CAST: Iseult Casey, Shane Murray-Corcoran
Twice Shy tells the story of Maggie (Iseult Casey) and Andy (Shane Murray-Corcoran), a young Irish couple en route to London as a result of an unplanned pregnancy. Funny and sad, this is the filmic stamp of a current socio-political zeitgeist. With mounting tensions over Ireland’s eighth amendment – a hyper-restrictive law which equates the life of the unborn with the life of the mother; a law which has been condemned as inhumane by the UN – this film speaks to the very real experience of countless women across the country. With at least twelve women flying from Ireland to Britain for an abortion every day, Twice Shy exemplifies what has unfortunately become normal place, with women having to leave their own country in search of paramount medical procedures. The film also speaks to the residual shame and secrecy clinging to unplanned pregnancies and abortions in this country, highlighting the longevity of patriarchal conditioning and the reach of the catholic church.
Told via the framing narrative of the car journey to the airport, the film dips back in time to the couple’s life together, from their first kiss, to college, to their breakup and Maggie’s crisis. The segments in the car are tense, with Andy stoically burdened and Maggie trying to hold it together through humour. Andy’s authoritative attempts to police Maggie’s reaction also set the slightly unfortunate tone for the film, as Twice Shy toes the dangerous path of centring a male character in a story about the restrictions placed on female bodily autonomy.
Throughout the film, aching images of Maggie wrestling with shame and silence and attempting to sooth herself are undercut by the return to Andy, to allow his emotional state to validate the events. This viewpoint is acknowledged sporadically; in one instance Andy snaps “I’m supporting you, aren’t I?” while Maggie coolly replies “are you?”, expressing that for Andy at that moment the most important person to support is himself.
In this vein, Andy’s character becomes the manifestation of repressed emotion, and his inability to explicitly address what has hurt him results in the cold treatment of the people who love him the most. His discomfort over his father’s suicide attempt leads Andy to treating him with kid gloves while ducking out of any situation where his father tries to raise the topic seriously. This discomfort results in Andy keeping his home life secret from Maggie, yet he constantly uses her ignorance on the topic against her. His harmful tendency to weaponise the things he has kept from her is what causes them to break up, and indicates that he would be better off approaching the things that scare him head on.
Despite this, this film is exceedingly poignant in its depiction of Maggie, from her timid talk with her sister to her decision to travel, and these scenes are made all the more painfully tender by the understanding that for many women this is reality. For me, the stand-out moment of Twice Shy is Maggie getting ready the morning she is to attend the clinic. Bare faced and exhausted, we watch as she starts to apply her makeup in the mirror of the tiny bathroom. The framing is very tight, everything is very close, and there is nowhere else to look as she slowly cracks and begins to cry. The experience is raw; throughout the film she is – as many women are – expected to be controlled and reserved, to accept her situation in silence and recognise the strain it has caused. So watching Maggie cry is perhaps the most important and meaningful moment in the film, as is the way she calms herself down and folds her heavy emotions small, in the ritual of pretending everything is fine even though it is not. It is then important that we stay with her, from the click of the closing hotel door, to the bus journey through dappled sunlight, to the moment a nurse appears, and her name is finally called.
Sadhbh Ni Bhroin
16 (See IFCO for details)
Twice Shy is released 23rd June 2017