MOUTHPIECE is a drama like no other. It is directed by Patricia Rozema and stars Amy Nostbakken (The New Canada), Norah Sadaya (The New Canada), Maev Beaty (King Lear), and Jess Salgueiro (Canadian Strain). Based on the play of the same name, Nostbakken and Sadaya are the original creators of MOUTHPIECE.
Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadaya play tall Cassandra and short Cassandra, two halves of a fragmented young woman trying to figure out how to remember her deceased mother. Against the wishes of her friends and family, Cassandra insists on doing the eulogy at her mother’s funeral. After a recent public spat, Cassandra feels a deep need to portray her mother as she was—both the good and the bad. As she finds funeral clothes, buys flowers, and writes her eulogy, we learn more about the two restless spirits that are Cassandra’s mind. The result is a movie that is honest, caring, and genuine.
This is a riveting journey for Cassandra and Cassandra, two parts to a personality. They are never more than a few feet apart. They’re best friends, but they fight too. Sometimes they talk in harmony, while other times just one Cassandra will overtake a conversation. Each Cassandra has subtle strengths and ticks. Watching them navigate life in synchrony, with dramatic or hilarious outcomes, is irresistible.
The production of this movie is a lovely haze of smoke and mirrors, heavy on the mirrors, which are in dozens of shots. Cassandra relives her experiences with her mother through warm, colorful flashbacks. There are a few song and dance numbers, specifically one in a supermarket, that feel out of place, but they’re still fascinating to watch.
The two Cassandras use subtle tricks to show which is dominant—in one scene, short Cassandra slips under the door of a dressing room, in another, tall Cassandra huddles in the bathtub while short Cassandra speaks with her brother Danny. The lack of rules is a good thing; with a concept so abstract, an overtly Jekyll and Hyde version of Cassandra would be too on-the-nose. Both actresses playing Cassandra do a convincing job.
The score is lovely—it features some gorgeous humming harmonies that signify Cassandra’s memories. The humming also turns into loud buzzing when Cassandra gets upset or annoyed. Music creates an intensity in Cassandra’s emotions when she is unable to express them herself.
Rozema, Nostbakken, and Sadya’s vision for the film is gorgeous: a millennial woman suddenly confronted with the death of her mother as she struggles to find her own voice. Cassandra’s tale in MOUTHPIECE is effortlessly relatable to anyone who’s had a complex relationship with a parent, making MOUTHPIECE one of the best movies of 2019.