Directed by Ellie Murphy Parker
Ellie Murphy Parker’s “a letter to M” begins with a woman carefully opening her windows on a Sunday to welcome the afternoon light. Her skin is bare, she stares at the white cloud and starts to float. The narrator’s tender voice ushers us into a poetic daze, reminds us what it’s like to really daydream — the strength of feeling: the way glimpses of flowers, leaves swaying gently to the wind, dirt, sun spots, fallen fruit, crumpled sheets, rippling water, mirrors reflecting golden light — all of which we’ve seen before, will never get old.
Accompanied by the delicate music of Blithe Field, this montage of both soothing and harrowing visuals is instrumental to the offering of yearning and nostalgia; a cloudy stain on an old window you can never quite wipe off. Or, the quest for something that has been lost and likely will never return, leaving us to cradle it within ourselves for as long as time spans. Parker recollects the sparse memories of her childhood beyond photographs— picking lemon from the lemon tree, “the tree died a long time ago, I know it will never bloom again.”
She illustrates to us the woman she has grown to be; the woman the one who is gone will never get the chance to know— sitting on a wooden chair, wearing a dress pink as summer sunset, gazing intently into the camera, right through us (or right past us). It feels as though by filming herself from a polite distance in the quiet company of wild foliage and occasionally a cat, she is trying to understand herself, “I wonder how I’ll ever know myself without knowing you,” she says. Perhaps this film is an exercise on this learning.
This film is understood to be about loss. But instead of perceiving loss to be the end of life, it shows us that it is the beginning: learning what it feels like to be seen, learning what it feels like to inhabit a body. The white cloud has seen many phases— tired, raining, ruptured, but she beckons: “Come out sweet cloud, I see you. Sweet cloud, follow me as we find our way home.”
Review by Riya Hamid
A Letter to M was selected and screened for our VOL. I Series, September 26th, 2018