Mental illness is a serious health condition that may not be curable but can be controlled in the right environment and with the right people. That said, it’s up to the loved ones whether they reject the ones who need help by pushing them towards the edge of the cliff or lending a helping hand and hang on until the mind gets the required stability to calm down.
“An Audience of Chairs”, written by Rosemary House (Hold Fast) and directed by Deanne Foley (Relative Happiness), is a thought-provoking and poignant film which follows Maura Mackenzie (Carolina Bartczak), an exceptionally talented pianist who must cope with the loss of her daughters which occurred due to her mental illness. It took just one day to take everything she loved away from her when her always-absent husband takes the children away from her after an incident that by chance did not turn catastrophic. Left alone, the woman dives into madness as the life she knew once slowly fades away as she becomes a shadow of herself that might soon be gone as well.
As soon as the film opens, we find Maura playing piano for the audience. She is great at it and totally dedicated, which you can tell right away as she can’t live without her piano. As she prepares for an audition tour in the US, her husband Duncan (Christopher Jacot) calls her to inform that his job will require him to be away from the family for the whole month. Maura is not happy about this news, as she believes she can nail her audition in America and perhaps secure something bigger than she has already accomplished. However, Duncan’s decision was non-negotiable and Maura had to put up with Duncan’s career to sacrifice her own.
It’s that moment when Maura almost relapses. While she seems intact with her mind, she takes the children out for fishing but returns back home alone to pick up her net which she forgot. But as soon as she sees the piano, she forgets everything – even her daughters who’re stuck with no chance of returning back home by themselves. By the time Maura realizes that she’s forgotten about her daughters, it was already dark. Luckily, a fisherman finds the girls and brings them home safely. However, as soon as Duncan learns about it, he not only takes the girls away but demands divorce as well.
The fact that Duncan runs for his life and for another woman makes you wonder how much more Maura’s tormented soul can take. Obviously, there’s a chance that Maura can be dangerous to her children, however, what she does not see from the father of her children is support. After that moment, her father, Ian (Peter MacNeill), takes the initiative to help his daughter with the best he could but he can’t do much as the only thing Maura would need for recovery is her children who are no longer with her.
“An Audience of Chairs” is one of those rare films that manages to capture the portrayal of one woman that became a victim of mental illness. Maura is a character you truly must meet. She is nice, brave, and talented. She has so many qualities to fall for her. However, the spiral of unfortunate events takes its turn and takes her deep down from where only the hands of a caring person could help pull her out of the hole she’s buried herself in. That man is Ben (Gord Rand) who becomes an inspiration for her and will for you as well, becoming the best medicine that eventually might help her to get back to her daughters if she stays strong enough to beat an unbeatable foe – her own fear.
In conclusion, Deanne Foley’s amazingly moving film will touch your heart and soul while Carolina Bartczak’s subtle performance perfectly fits into the sad and scary world of mental illness in which the actress ensures it might bring more awareness to this disability.