Elisabeth Subrin’s A Woman, A Part casts a critical lens at the film and television world as she takes a deep dive examination of what it means to age and what you do when your passion dims. Anna (Maggie Siff) a 44 year-old actress whose been working for as long as she can remember, has reached a critical breaking point in her career. Having been a long lasting character on a popular television series, she’s found her role growing increasingly dull as ageism and sexism become more prominent in her characters depiction. Fed up, she leaves L.A. in a fit of frustration and goes back to New York City, where she started and reunites with her friends Isaac (John Ortiz) and Kate (Cara Seymour).
However, having left both in unsatisfied places makes the reunion bitter sweet as Kate is grappling with recovery from her alcoholism as Isaac tries to balance his creative spirit with the less than thrilling actions of every day life, with Anna’s arrival proving to be the best scapegoat. Isaac puts her on a pedestal while Kate diminishes what she’s accomplished. They’re both still dealing with the fallout of her leaving and the hole it left in her absence. Both carry what if’s, Isaac in terms of a relationship with Anna and Kate in the thought of what would have happened if she had taken Anna’s place.
The performances are all wonderfully lived it, with Siff, Ortiz and Seymour all portraying a real sense of shared history, so involved in one another lives for such a deal of time that anything other than friendly intimacy is foreign to them. Seymour walks away with some of the greatest character beats however as a woman grappling with her demons, past and present, forcibly removing herself from what she loves in order to heal. None of them are in happy places in their lives, demonstrated by both the dialogue and performances, but also the ways in which they’re shot. Anna is the most obvious as we take in the empty space surrounding her, be it in L.A., New York, in her own house or on the streets, there’s an emptiness surrounding her. Her life is bare. Take her apartment with it’s white walls, empty rooms and lack of signs of life to her friends, Kate, which is stacked to the brims with books and mementos documenting her rich with love life. It’s the dynamics between these characters and their feelings of discontentment that elevates A Woman, A Part from a smart character study to a film that unveils emotional introspection at every given turn, becoming something evocative and timely.
Of the many themes that the script plays with, ageism and sexism are the strongest and play into the films story enormously. Anna is finding it hard to move forward with any substantial work while Kate is unable to land on a line of work that makes her as happy as performing did. The script doesn’t tread lightly on it’s message of how difficult it is to be an actress, especially one older than 40, in Hollywood.
Beyond the wonderful performances and critical take on the film industry (always needed), Subrin’s direction is gorgeously rendered, especially moments with Anna alone as she looses herself in her own mind, be it as she daydreams she’s lying face down in a crowded street as people pay her no mind, or in the middle of her kitchen floor, desperately avoiding commitments or anything that could cause her more stress. It perfectly captures the isolation she’s feeling in both her professional and personal life. It’s those intimate moments between Anna and her friends, Kate in particular, that so tenderly demonstrate the female experience. Female friendship in film is so little explored and Kate and Anna are both toxic in their relationship and also understand one another the best, even after years of separation. In their shared gazes, shifting smiles and conversations that can turn ugly in the blink of an eye, Subrin captures it all with grace and delicacy, refusing to paint either as victim or antagonist, instead portraying both as humans with flaws who are doing the best that they can.
A Woman, A Part is a strong showcase for all involved, Subrin in particular, who’s innovative and artful direction inspires a sense of wonder, prompting the audience to want to learn more about Isaac, Kate and Anna and their relationship, both in the past and present but also what comes after. A Woman, A Part is excellent storytelling from start to finish and I can’t wait to see what story Subrin tells next.