Embrace – Review ***

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Do women have bodily self-esteem issues? The answer is obviously affirmative, and yet Embrace, the first documentary by mother of three made activist Taryn Brumfitt, seems to be making people take notice of how deep and widespread the problem really is.

Taryn always had issues with her own body, having inclusive made a rigorous body building training regime after the birth of her first child to “gain her body back”. But after realising how time consuming and exhausting having – and keeping – the “perfect” body was, she decided to learn to love and embrace her natural body. After posting an unusual before/after photo on social media, she went viral and was catapulted to the women’s activism stage. Overwhelmed by the attention her photos got, she decided to go on a world trip to talk to other women and document the issue further. From Cosmopolitan’s chief editor Mia Freedman’s struggle to feature plus-size models on her cover, to actresses, photographers, women that defy the current beauty standards and victims of food disorders, Taryn shines a light on a problem that has been around for too long and has no solution in sight.

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Covering such a vast subject in only 90 minutes would always be a risky venture, even for a more experienced documentarist, and Embrace suffers from the common disease of an “anthology” doc – it’s too long, and yet it doesn’t cover enough. You may wonder if the media are the sole responsible for women’s insecurities in the body department; if it is all just about fat or if there are other parameters on the line (Brumfitt vaguely touches on this at some points, but never dwells upon it); or even if this documentary adds anything fresh to the topic. The fragmentary nature of the film, connected only by Taryn’s flights between locations, gives more the impression of a scrapbook than a narrative – and though that probably makes it more accessible, we are left to wonder if the message wouldn’t be stronger if less patchy.

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Still,  Embrace does deliver as a 101 Female Body Issues, taking particularly care of presenting a certain diversity – women of colour, transgender, mothers, disfigurement, disability, genetic conditions – while celebrating the body as a tool to live, more than an ornament. With some strong moments and a few funny ones (we dare you not to laugh at Taryn’s face during the plastic surgeon’s consultation), Embrace may be just a baby step into a massive planet, but it definitely beats staying in the sofa blissfully ignorant.

 

EMBRACE will be available in cinemas across the UK from 16th January. For more information visit:https://uk.demand.film/embrace/

 

 

 

 

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.