Shapeless, directed by Samantha Aldana, is a visually stunning, slow burn horror that packs an extra special punch for anyone who’s experienced an eating disorder, compulsive behaviour, or, for me, the guilt of eating “unhealthy” food as a fat person.
Ivy (Kelly Murtagh, who also wrote the screenplay with Bryce Parsons-Twesten) is not at all fat. She’s skin-and-bones, hiding under loose clothing while she purposefully starves herself. But her body also has a mind of its own, sprouting new parts in unlikely places – an eyeball on her arm, for example. The only way to make these growths go away is to binge on sweet snacks, which then must be purged. Ivy’s potential as a jazz singer, as well as her relationships with her band members, are ruined as she succumbs over and over again to the demands of her disorder. She hides her cupboards from friends so they don’t see she has nothing but junk food, and granola bars which she cuts in half to be her sustenance for a day.
New Orleans is a character in Shapeless, a haunted spirit with a hot temper that oozes jazz and smoke. The atmosphere is impressively detailed, and every aspect of the setting is rich with meaning. Ivy’s apartment is spacious and comfortable, but the paint is peeling off all the walls. Shots are partially obscured by foreground objects, mirrors refract light to distort the images. Something that particularly set me on edge was the sound of Ivy chewing her cuticles.
Ivy knows her secret is destroying her, but she’s so good at keeping it. There’s always another snack to eat, and always another man to screw, as she and her body continue to betray each other.