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Review: Patrica Rozema’s ‘Mouthpiece’ delves deep into a woman’s grief

(L-R)- Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava in a scene from “Mouthpiece.” Credit: Dada Films
Amy Nostbakken, left, and Norah Sadava in the movie “Mouthpiece.”
(Dada Films)

Filmmaker Patricia Rozema directs “Mouthpiece,” adapted from a play by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, who star in and also co-wrote the film with Rozema. “Mouthpiece” is a cinematic storytelling experiment, a surreal, creative treatment of one woman grappling with the loss of her mother (Maev Beaty).

Nostbakken and Sadava both play Cassandra, simultaneously, and initially, you wouldn’t guess this is a film about just one woman. You wonder if they’re best friends, lovers or sisters, but their movements are too synced, the moments they share too intimate. Nostbakken and Sadava have visually externalized the internal monologue, constantly swapping the role of who plays the Cassandra the world interacts with, and who plays the psyche.

As she receives and processes the news of her mother’s sudden death, Cassandra grapples with the meaning of her mother’s life. Delving into her memories, she can’t help but witness the casual sexism and institutionalized misogyny that limited her mother’s life, and was thoughtlessly passed down to Cassandra herself.

Confronting these truths makes for some difficult emotional wrestling. Rozema excels in unflinchingly representing the complex lives of women, both within their internal relationships and against the world (“Into the Forest”), but there are times when this visual twist confuses rather than elucidates. However, there’s no denying the bracing, honest nature of “Mouthpiece,” a truly revolutionary piece of filmmaking.

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‘Mouthpiece’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes

Playing: Starts June 7, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

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