By Julia Kennelly | Drama
Feeling ignored on an important day, a 12-year-old girl seeks attention from an unexpected source.

A girl named Chandler is at gymnastics practice one day when something surprising but inevitable happens: she gets her period, at an especially vulnerable and revealing moment.

But when she reaches out for help from her older sister, her sister can’t quite pull herself away from her new boyfriend Tyler. Chandler then must find her own way through this tough moment, searching for some kind of connection wherever she can find it.

Writer-director Julia Kennelly’s short drama is a frank yet heartfelt coming-of-age tale about what it means to be a young girl navigating the increasingly choppy waters of becoming a woman. Its approach to drama is subtle, focusing on what’s not being said as much as the action, and the moments captured are alive to Chandler’s inner life: her anxieties, pleasures, observations and longings.

Delicate and beautiful lighting and sensitive hand-held cinematography create a world that feels both current and nostalgic at the same time — almost as if this moment in Chandler’s life is already taking on the poignancy and tenderness of memory, even as it unfurls in her present. It’s almost as if Chandler is sending herself to the future, trying to remember a strange, poignant moment in her young life.

The film has a strong foundation in Kennelly’s perceptive, tender script, which feature finely drawn characters and relationships filled with both great longing and resentment. The writing is brought to life by beautifully calibrated performances, particularly by young lead actress Zephyr Ingle, who captures what it feels like to be at the margins of your own life — and what she feels she must do to reclaim her central place in it. Chandler is a remarkably quiet lead character, but the film is alive to the unspoken undercurrents of her emotional life, and it’s these inchoate feelings that guide her to take action.

Chandler may be a young girl, but with her curiosity, intelligence and sensitivity, she isn’t just a passive recipient of ideas of what it means to be a woman. For better or worse, she tries to reclaim some agency in her life — to feel visible, seen and witnessed. “Chandler” captures the moment this young girl arrives at a potentially perilous precipice in her life, ready to take flight — even when saddled with the baggage of loneliness, fragmented support systems and societal ideas of femininity.

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