Jul 25, 2023
Juliet Stevenson, Hannah Morrish
In Roman mythology, Ceres was worshipped as the goddess of agriculture, grain crops and fertility, however, more importantly for today's story, she was also the goddess of maternal relationships. Ceres can be seen as the Roman counterpart to her predecessor in the Greek pantheon, Demeter whose roles and stories she mostly shares, but in one thing above all else do they have a common manifest destiny, that of the fate of their daughter.
Proserpina, the daughter of Ceres, links directly to the Greek goddess Persephone and shares her story almost completely; that being her abduction by the god of the Underworld (Pluto/Hades) to be his queen (also not forgetting that he is her uncle). For this, Proserpina was given the moniker of 'the maiden' and her tale became one of the saddest in the entire mythological canon. As she was to be rescued by the messenger of the gods, she was tricked into eating the fruit of the Underworld and so was forever bound to spend a third of each year (the cold, lifeless, winter months) there.
It seems fitting then that writer and star of this new short film, Hannah Morrish should use these characters and the outline of this story to build a modern tale which focuses on domestic abuse. The Daughter (Morrish) returns to a place she knows, a place that perhaps she once used to call home. The house is empty but she finds the key and lets herself in, then sets about ridding herself of the oppressive weight which burdens her. Eventually, The Mother (Stevenson) comes home and they work together to plant new seeds and mend old relationships.
Everything in Ceres is very understated, from the minimal dialogue, to the muted colours of the earth and the stone, to the way the two characters interact with one another. There is always an overarching power which accompanies every scene; a history that is great and vast but never gets alluded to; which nevertheless gets relayed in the commanding presence of the two lead actors. Director, Amelia Sears carefully allows us to share in the quiet, tender moments between mother and daughter, bringing us in close to their hands and their faces, letting us feel in the dirt and plant the future alongside them, with the result being a beautiful and intimate experience for the viewer.
What Morrish and Sears have achieved with Ceres is no mean feat, telling within a fifteen minute short film a story which resonates down through the ages. On the surface, Ceres can be taken as a gentle, personal film of the relationship between mother and daughter as both seek refuge from the oppression that exists outwith, but its true genius lies in the fact that there is so much more hiding behind what we see and hear, that the characters and their unshifting fates are something truly mythical in scale.
When Gods and Monsters are all we see on screen these days, pumped up to the max in technicolor, ripping cities to shreds with their indomitable power, it is entirely refreshing and welcome to see a film which treats these stories with the respect and care with which they were forged – keeping them simple, real and as a blueprint to guide the lives of normal people; those of us who are merely moulded from clay.