Film review: Stalled

Allison Declercq, Contributor Ω

It’s hard to make friends here. Or maybe I don’t want to.
Agreed. Sometimes I feel I’m better off by myself than with people, being fake.
You are beautiful. You are loved.
Maybe all of us who have written here should meet up?
How can we? We’re all the same person.

                             – Five anonymous women on a bathroom stall at UBC

Stalled is a 15-minute film based off a collection of more than 800 quotes from bathroom stalls across North America. Meghan Gardiner, scriptwriter and actress for all the characters, collected the quotes for three years as she toured for her play Dissolve.

She came up with the concept after coming across a debate about abortion on a bathroom stall at the University of Toronto. She found herself enthralled by the similar messages and their dark sides that thread across North America.

“Why did someone crouch down to write ‘I throw up my food’ under the toilet?” Gardiner asked herself.

The film focuses on four prominent themes she found among the anonymous quotes of graffiti: eating disorders, drugs, sexual assault and bullying. Its five characters span ages, nationalities and eras in an effort to encompass women from all areas of life.

An elder female janitor leads the journey, finding graffiti on each stall and transforming into four different women experiencing different problems.

“Each character is stalled,” Gardiner said of them during the discussion afterward, as she and the audience explored how the film addressed each issue through the characters. A look at some quotes brought poetry to mind while others seemed like an attempt to connect.

“If you write it on the wall you either love it, crave it, or hate it,” wrote an anonymous person from an unknown bathroom.

Gardiner also described her desire to explore the difference between art and cries for help.

“Do these women come back to see if there was a response?” she asked.

In the film one of the characters wrote a poem – one found on a bathroom stall in reality – written by several anonymous contributors. Discussions on stalls can be shocking and deep; “Is it because they are more anonymous than Facebook?” Gardiner asked the audience.

The film was finished five days before it was shown at in the Clock Tower at TRU on Thursday, Oct. 4, making the viewing the premier of Stalled. Though the film was only 15 minutes, discussion continued well beyond 7:30 p.m. as Gardiner worked “to figure out where the impact lies.” The audience members, the majority women with a handful of men, voiced their opinion on the film, the issues and their experiences with stall discussion. As Gardiner had hoped, Stalled ended up being “entertainment first, awareness second.”