The Great Maiden’s Blush - review

by James Robins / 23 May, 2016
Two single women about to give birth forge a deep bond.
Trapped: Aila (Renee Lyons) and Bunny (Miriama McDowell).
Trapped: Aila (Renee Lyons) and Bunny (Miriama McDowell).


"How long have you been in for?” Aila asks a young father as they stand over an incubator, a just-born child fidgeting inside. “Two months,” he replies, as if they were cellmates. Indeed, the intensive care unit in The Great Maiden’s Blush seems more like a prison than a hospital wing, familial bonds trapping new mothers in more ways than one.

Aila (Renee Lyons) and Bunny (Miriama McDowell) begin this story – directed by Wellington film-makers Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader – as guarded ward-mates, eventually forming a deep, almost intangible bond through the impossible circumstances that forced them together.

There is an intensely impressionistic sense to Bosshard and Loader’s work: things become blurred, like a half-forgotten dream, as we go back to uncover the source of these character’s aches – ethereal images played against the cold white gowns and linoleum of the ward.

Lyons and McDowell pour a wellspring of melancholy and world-weariness into their performances, unblemished by any need for gloss or artifice. There are screams of labour and flinching moments at the breast pump. They are tangible and truthful characters.

The film (whose allusive title is given meaning by the closing scenes) was made on a sliver-thin budget. But the directors make the most of the limitations, proving that care and dedication are worth far more than any blank cheque. ••

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