Set in New Orleans, Shapeless follows a young woman named Ivy (Kelly Murtagh). Presently, Ivy is highly passionate about all things relating to jazz, regularly performing on stage and even on the streets. Other jazz performers within the city also inspire her. When she’s not singing, Ivy works at a local dry cleaner which helps to pay for the cost of living.
But while we understand that Ivy is keen to make it big in a jazz career, something quite dark lives within her body, which is quite haunting and unsettling. We witness various uncomfortable moments for Ivy as she battles her own personal demons. One example is when she returns home from singing, eats a meal, and vomits it back up while having a shower. Another is when Ivy plays a musical instrument, and something strange seems to happen to her hand. One thing is for sure- when Ivy is singing and in her element on stage, there are no evident problems until she stops. Then she must deal with her personal life and her eating disorder. Can Ivy control everything within her before she becomes something quite horrific and monstrous?
Shapeless is a fun combination of touching drama along with a few horror elements. It’s a good concept with various haunting and uncomfortable moments to watch. Ivy has many issues brewing under the surface, which she keeps to herself, never telling others or seeking proper help. Perhaps Ivy ignores these issues because she fears they will interfere with her main passion and personal goals of becoming a famous jazz artist. No matter, the more Ivy keeps her secret to herself, the worse things become.
As for pacing, Shapeless is a slow burn, and the film tells its story in no rush. Many scenes are slow-burning with great details and an atmosphere that can be pleasing or make viewers squirm in their seats. Some scenes and moments don’t even contain dialogue but rely on the actress to carry expressions and emotions, which I felt was done well. Kelly Murtagh, who plays Ivy wonderfully, delivers a character to life in a role that would have been challenging for the actress given the themes. Unfortunately, I found most side performances vague and forgettable, with the lead actress carrying a hefty portion of the film. If you like jazz, you’re lucky as the soundtrack features heavily, sometimes carrying the scene and effectively delivering various emotions. I found the final moments to be somewhat disappointing as it delivers an ending that feels vague and lacks key details, only raising some unanswered questions.
Overall, carrying a pleasing concept, Shapeless is filled with both dramatic and horrific moments. Due to the film’s themes and slow pace, it will undoubtedly create mixed opinions among its viewers. Visually there is plenty to admire here as audiences will feel various emotions and certainly feel uncomfortable throughout. The performance from Kelly Murtagh is pleasing, and I felt she successfully delivered what would have been quite a challenging character to the screen. For a directional debut from Samantha Aldana, the film contains plenty of new ideas that the cinema world has yet to see, which I’m extremely thankful for. I genuinely look forward to seeing what’s next.