Balance, Not Symmetry

Director Jamie Adams collaborates with Biffy Clyro for Glasgow-set drama Balance, Not Symmetry, an unbearable film marred by clichés and an inconsistent structure

Film Review by Maria Kamińska | 27 Jun 2019
  • Balance, Not Symmetry
Film title: Balance, Not Symmetry
Director: Jamie Adams
Starring: Laura Harrier, Bria Vinaite, Lily Newmark, Scott Miller

Balance, Not Symmetry is unbearable. Directed and co-written by Jamie Adams, this aimless and inconclusive drama about a young woman processing a deep loss recycles clichés and wallows in narrative shallows without a hint of self-awareness. Laura Harrier (Spider-Man: Homecoming) plays Caitlin Walker, a disturbed British-American art student living in Glasgow who tries to take back control of her life after her father’s death. Torn between supporting her mourning mother (Kate Dickie) and fulfilling art school duties, this young woman attempts to overcome a creative blockage and finally figure out who she really is.

Almost every part of this setup could have been successful. The idea of depicting the experience of loss from the perspective of a young person is refreshing and needed but the inconsistent writing crushes hopes for a solid and smartly-structured story. Random and sketchy plots appear suddenly and then disappear without a word of explanation. The mother’s fledgeling addiction miraculously stops being an issue, while Caitlin’s edgy affair with Rory (Scott Miller) – a self-proclaimed artist – disappears from the director’s interest as soon as it occurs. The film generates some energy through the presence of The Florida Project's Bria Vinaite as Hannah, Caitlin's flatmate, but her spiky performance alone can't cover the narrative gaps.

Balance, Not Symmetry's most striking flaw, however, is the clumsy filmmaking. Frankly speaking, it looks as if Adams has squished together an intimate family vivisection, MTV-styled teen drama and a bunch of video clips for Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro into one storyline. Even the song choices don't appear to correspond with the plot, accentuating the sense of narrative confusion.

Overall, Balance, Not Symmetry is devoid of fully-formed characters or ideas. The film's narrative patchwork, with its inconsistent structure, offers its audience neither a sense of balance nor symmetry.

Balance, Not Symmetry had its world premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Maria Kamińska is a student at the University of Warsaw and part of Edinburgh International Film Festival's Student Critics Programme. For more on EIFF's Student Critics Programme, click here

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