RiverRun 2019: A Scientist’s Guide to Living and Dying

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Dir. Nitzan Mager and Shachar Langler, USA, 2018, 75 min.

This drama, co-directed by and starring UNC School of the Arts alum Nitzan Mager, centers on a scientist named Amy, played by Mager, as she mourns the loss of her husband Chris while preparing to give birth to his child. The arc of the story follows a full-term pregnancy, as Amy struggles to articulate the intricacies of motherhood.

She finds both solace and confusion through caring for two boys from a shelter, named Ari and Caleb, as she juggles these responsibilities with her natal health and career. As each trimester progresses, so too does her current scientific study on mysterious male cells inside certain women’s bodies.

The narrative flows smoothly, utilizing subtlety to reveal what Amy realizes over the course of nine months. It drifts in and out of reality, delving into Amy’s consciousness.

The film intersperses moments of philosophical ponderings from Amy in between the scenes, as she wonders about motherhood, her body and a scientist’s mindset. As her pregnancy progresses, her perspective seems more and more complicated. With each passing month, she dives deeper into a frenzy of questioning what she knows. One views the film through the context of Amy’s mind, blurring the definition of metaphor and objective reality. The film, however, never loses its grounding, as it portrays these abstract ideas through physical elements.

The film places Amy at the intersection of motherhood and scientist, discovering a balance of her different roles as each one comes into question. Even the self comes under scrutiny in this powerful tale of motherhood, stability and healing.

A Scientist’s Guide to Living and Dying screens in Winston-Salem on April 12 at 1 p.m. and April 13 at 4:30 at A/perture 1, and April 14 at 11:30 a.m. at UNCSA Gold.

— SE

You may also enjoy these Riverrun 2019 reviews:

Lupe: This drama centers of a transgender protagonist who, while searching for their sibling, also searches for their true identity.

This Changes Everything: This star-studded documentary explores how film and television promote narratives that marginalize and render girls because women are denied the opportunity to tell stories as producers, directors and actors.

Find the full list of reviews here.