Where to even begin with this film? MY FIONA tore my heart out. I was emotionally destroyed. And I don’t tend to cry at movies.
The opening scene is so ordinary and familiar. Two women just working on their computers, having a regular day. They sing a song together, one of them brings out a packed lunch. It’s normal.
And then comes the moment when everything changes. Someone makes a decision. The thing happens. And then there’s just no coming back from that. And I’m this voyeur on this family tragedy.
I’ve never hit a pause button so quickly. Luckily I was watching it at home, so I could do that.
Suicide is a difficult topic for any filmmaker. I love sad movies, so I’ve seen a lot of them acted out on screen. I thought I was prepared for MY FIONA. The premise sounds survivable enough: a woman dies suddenly, leaving behind a wife and a seven year old son. The woman’s best friend, feeling adrift, offers to take care of this poor little boy. The grief is absolutely messy, but perhaps they find a way through it.
And in the hands of less skilled filmmaker than writer and director Kelly Walker, perhaps this is all it would have been. But nope. MY FIONA decides to transcend all that. I may never recover.
MY FIONA is about the messy and multifaceted experience of grief. It’s about making bad decisions on purpose, and good decisions by accident, and just getting through each day. It’s about the way we look back after a traumatic incident, trying to make every conversation, every interaction, a sign of what was to come.
Best friend Jane (Jeanette Maus) is the centre of this film. She’s someone who isn’t entirely at ease with herself, someone who cannot be alone. Fiona (Sara Amini) is her best friend, her business partner, and (at least from Jane’s perspective) her soul mate.
Fiona’s hotshot lawyer wife Gemma (played by Corbin Reid) is always a source of tension between these two women. Obviously, Jane is happy for Fiona, tolerates Gemma, loves the little boy Bayley (Elohim Nycalove is incredible, especially for one so young). But there’s still that jealousy, that feeling of being left behind. Fiona grows up and creates a life, and Jane tries to stay along for the ride.
When Fiona dies by suicide, Jane is left completely untethered. She’s screaming at people, demanding answers, playing detective. Trying to hold on to the friend she loves, Jane leaves her job, and becomes Bayley’s afterschool carer. He calls her ‘his Jane’, and he’s a sweet kid dealing with some terrible things.
Gemma deals with her wife’s death differently, quietly, but the film treats her approach as no less valid. Both heartbroken without Fiona, both caring for this little boy, Jane and Gemma are just trying to find their way through it all. But as their lives weave closer together, boundaries are crossed, and intimacies develop.
In developing MY FIONA, Kelly Walker drew from her own life. A bisexual woman, she wanted to see more genuinely loving stories about bisexual people on screen. And as a little girl, she lost her babysitter – a young woman who was like her older sister – to suicide.
This is what sets the film apart. It tells the story of a woman who’s lost her best friend in the world, but also honours the grief of this friend’s mother, wife, and child. Kelly Walker creates a complicated and deeply kind film about grief, sexuality, and finding a way through.
It’s phenomenal, a must-watch film. I’m definitely seeing it in cinemas, this time without that ‘pause’ button. It’ll probably destroy me all over again, but that’s the point.
Following selection in BFI Flare in 2020 and Queer Screen’s Mardi Gras Film Festival last month, Australian filmmaker Kelly Walker’s first feature film, MY FIONA, will screen at Melbourne Queer Film Festival on Saturday 13 March and Sunday 14 March. Click here to find out more.