Directed by Alan Power
Starring Rosey Hayes, Maeve Moran, Caoimhe Murphy, Aisling Kavanagh
Indie Film Review by Jack Gibbs
To grapple with anxiety and uncertainty, to weather the ravages of self-deprecation and to wonder if our existence has meaning is something a great many of us do in times of crisis – and the topic that indie film Deep Meaning, aka: Neglect, Self-Hate & Shame seeks to explore with care and gusto in equal measure.
Revolving around the day-to-day struggles of Alice, an aspiring artist locked in a constant battle with her own hesitation and self-doubt who vehemently refuses all forms of external assistance and uses a talking stuffed animal as an outlet for her problems, its looks prove deceptive. The visuals of the various environments are reasonably well-crafted, but the humanoid models on display are jarring and can perhaps serve to potentially repel viewers, as Alice and other residents of Kilkenny are represented through thin, lanky, large-eyed humanoids that look like anthropomorphic sacks.
Though this sort of presentation can be off-putting, it’s the emotional content within the feature itself that is much more outstanding beneath the veneer of odd appearances. We see the extent of Alice’s struggles with herself illustrated in a variety of ways, from conversing with her stuffed animal for assistance and guidance to dealing with the apathy of her colleagues as she endeavours to write an opera, to a series of conversations with ‘herself’ and others, presented in the style of a TV show, which shed light on her deep-rooted insecurities and personal suffering. Even when taking its relative brevity into consideration, Deep Meaning ensures that these moments are impactful. It’s a crowd-funded labour of love that explores the darker side of the emotions we experience, showing what a budget of just €800 can accomplish in the right hands.
It is perhaps not the best-written example of such a work, and the experience is marred by an occasional slip in the mostly passable voice acting, but it rings true – and the second-guessing and self-deprecatory remarks that Alice flagellates herself with become more apparent and more wince-inducing as time goes on. She desperately yearns to create something that will define her and which will last through the vicissitudes of history, yet even when given positive reinforcement she doubles back on herself. Her journey is brief yet poignant as she leaps boldly and blindly into writing her magnum opus, and from there gives us an unflinching look into the psyche of a young girl with her whole life ahead of her, yet finds herself listless, grappling with who is and plagued with crippling doubt, disillusioned and urgently trying to give her life direction.
It does become remarkably heavy-handed and even somewhat one-dimensional in its delivery of its central themes and ideas in the minutes before the close, both through dialogue and symbolism, and it suffers for that bluntness when everything else came across as reasonable, delicate and tasteful. But even despite that the core message of Deep Meaning still resonates. It is in our nature as humans to strive to leave a mark on the world around us, to guarantee ourselves a legacy be it through passing on our genes or creating something which serves to immortalise us and place us firmly within the annals of human history. In one way or another, we all yearn to live forever, to follow Longfellow’s example and leave footprints in the sands of time.
So too is it in our nature to wonder if our efforts truly have any value or merit attached to them, to self-flagellate and engage in bitter introspection and wonder whether there’s any point to it all. But above all else, as the film’s closing moments encapsulate neatly, it shows us that no man is an island. Neglect, self-hate and shame are always difficult mountains to climb, but there is always light in the form of those who help – who care because they see the best in us.