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:: Palindromes

Whichever way you look at it, a palindrome is always the same. Read backwards or forwards, the letters remain in the same order. A word can’t escape its own meaning. No, this isn’t a lesson in grammar; it’s an innovative and heartfelt film from Happiness director, Todd Solondz.

Palindromes centres around Aviva, who like her name, is the same however you look at her. She is an awkward teenage girl, naïve but also kind. More than anything in the world, she wants to be a mother. Despite her sweetness and innocence, or perhaps because of it, Aviva suffers greatly in life. Although she runs away from her troubles, she always seems to find herself in the same hopeless situations.

Solondz has made the unusual decision of using eight different actors to play this character. The fact that the actors are of vastly different ages, ethnicities and one is a boy, again illustrates the belief at the heart of this film. Regardless of external appearances, a person is always essentially the same and cannot change.

It’s a courageous experiment from Solondz, but makes it difficult to connect with the character or feel drawn into her story. It is such a challenge to let go of expectations and accept the different guises of Aviva, that the film gets quite disorienting at times. Accompanying this odd device is a fairytale-like style that feels almost perverted given the film’s bleak content. Palindromes deals with heart-wrenching scenes in a flat, emotionless way, and calmly explores Aviva’s personal desires alongside paedophilia, militant Christianity and sensitive moral issues.

Palindromes is unforgiving to its audience, demanding both respect for its originality and a concerted mental effort to keep up. As such, few people will find it a pleasure to watch, though many more should find it fascinating.