“My Name is Emily” is Beautiful, Painful and Comforting

By Anubhuti Kumar, Staff Writer

Green meadows, luscious trees, quaint towns, empty roads and peace as far as the eye can see. “My Name is Emily” takes audiences on a trip across the idyllic Irish countryside, which stands in sharp contrast with the pain and angst of the main characters fragmented family lives.

Evanna Lynch (of “Harry Potter” fame) stars as the titular Emily and narrates the film directed by Simon Fitzmaurice. Fitzmaurice lives with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The fact that he was able to direct this visually spectacular and emotionally nuanced film is a feat in and of itself; doing it while completely paralyzed, communicating only through the movement of his eyes using iris recognition software, goes above and beyond the expected.

Emily is a 16-year-old living in foster care after her mother dies and her eccentric, brilliant writer father (Michael Smiley) was committed to a psych ward. Arden, played by George Webster, comes from a well-off family with a doting mother and a dominating father who fight bitterly. When Emily is introduced as the new student in his class and teased by the other students, Arden reaches out to the closed off Emily and gives her a copy of his favorite book, “The Grapes of Wrath.” When Emily doesn’t receive her annual birthday card from her father, she knows something is wrong and reaches out to Arden enlisting his help and company on her quest to break her father out of the psych ward into which he was forced.

The performances in this film are what make it outstanding. Lynch is moves through the film with lightness and portrays with subtly and piercingly honest emotion a teenager feeling trapped by circumstances out of her control but determined to take it back. Her loyalty to her father and the pain she feels when betrayed by the man for whom he she drove across the country is believable and sympathetic. Smiley’s depiction of her father clearly demonstrates his love for his daughter. His struggle with mental illness and his fight to to do what is best for Emily are almost tangible, no matter how personally painful. He pulls off the character with both humor and earnestness.

As Emily and Arden drive through Ireland to visit her father, they pass through the beautiful countryside. The peaceful monotony of green is interrupted by bursts of seemingly symbolic yellow. Spontaneous moments of happiness depicted by bright daisies, a sunshine colored tent on a dark and dangerous night at the beach and a buttercup car where Emily and Arden become close. The film’s teetering between whimsy and gutting pain create a portrait of life universally poignant.

“My Name is Emily” is at once heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s a film that’s stunning and tragic, beautiful and comforting, and would be a shame to pass by.

Email Anubhuti Kumar at film@nyunews.com.

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