Reflections of a Life

In my opinion, it is very easy for those who are not directly affected by a disease to lose sight of its ability to change a life forever. Too often we get lost in the symbols of a cause such as breast cancer awareness, proudly sporting pink ribbons and extolling the virtues of its victims while forgetting what makes them “brave” in the first place. Thankfully, with a film like Reflections of a Life, we can take a moment to cut through the speeches and campaigns to remind ourselves just how emotionally complicated a journey with sickness can be for the patient.

Kathi Carey stars in—as well as writes and directs—this short yet effective outlining of one woman’s attempt to live fully in the face of breast cancer. Luckily for the audience, Reflections of a Life does not open with our protagonist immediately on her death bed, but rather some time before the disease even makes its first appearance. We see the main character, named Taylor, prepping herself for a night out with her husband, a date meant to celebrate their fifteenth anniversary as a couple. The chances for celebration are dashed when a shocking phone call is received, informing Taylor of an “accident” that has killed her husband. Sent reeling by this discovery, Taylor must learn to adapt in the face of mortality, but it is not the first time she will face this challenge.

In a smart move, Carey’s script breaks down the character of Taylor and her life into quick vignettes, each with its own clear focus and moments of development. While this technique serves to move the story along, it also seems to have a creative purpose. To be specific, the desire of the film to keep the viewer moving allows them to empathize with Taylor’s sense of being lost in the shuffle, a mere observer of events greater than herself. All she and the audience can do is adapt to the latest set of rules put before them, and it is a sobering experience indeed. It also helps that, for the most part, Carey confines her tale to the a few rooms in Taylor’s home, allowing for a variety of highly creative shots that grant the film a personal yet sometimes frightened visual style. Taylor’s bathroom, for example, goes from being a warm, well lit space to cold and mechanical during times of happiness and outright despair.

While there are a few small notes of criticism that need to be made, understand they are not crucial to making Reflections a better film. It is already an excellent study in the life of one individual taking the problems of many, and so it is recommended. I will say, however, that sometimes the soundtrack came off as a bit preachy, indulging in almost Disney-like orchestrations in upbeat moments only to break out overwrought strains of doom in the next scene. Perhaps Carey should have let her visuals speak for themselves? Also, when the movie does head outdoors, the shots give off an otherworldly glow and almost seem pasted behind the actors via computer software. To a slight extent this distracts from the personal tone Reflections sets, which is disappointing.

Finally, I’d like to point out Carey’s acting ability, since her turn as Taylor is without a doubt excellent. The character is not quickly drawn or realized hastily, because I think Carey knows using such tactics would result in an all too easy performance. It would be simple to make Taylor a blubbering martyr in the face of the evil blight known as breast cancer, but the final product is much more colored and textured. Crucial moments, such as when Taylor’s hair first falls out or she stands examining her post-surgery scar, are given the time they need to breathe and be explored, and we see just how this one woman reacts to what is put before her. It is a fantastic performance, but when the credits reveal that two women died of breast cancer during the film’s half hour running time, I truly realized the importance of this story.

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