Review: Inside Me, Battersea Arts Centre/The Motherhood Project
3.0Overall Score

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Have you ever been so wrapped in your love and care for someone else that you’re left entirely too exhausted to love yourself? No? Maybe your mum has, though.

Inside Me, a short film monologue written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and directed by Maria Aberg for Battersea Arts Centre’s ‘The Motherhood Project’, is an intimate dive into the bodily experience of motherhood and self-image under the unexpected weight of body positivity.

The Motherhood Project is a generous series of short films created during lockdown in particularly timely support of Refuge, a UK charity that supports women and children experiencing domestic violence. In their own tender way, each film and perspective explores the complex blend of guilt, joy, absurdity, pressure and taboo surrounding motherhood.

With barely even enough time to address the camera, Jenni Maitland hurries into frame and begins busying herself at the sink, seemingly only just fitting this meeting with us into her day. While two powerful hands rush through food prep with a ritualistic mastery, the kitchen holds a sacred space of confession for this expert multitasker and mother of two.

Setting straight out with graphic descriptions of an invasive pelvic floor exam, the layers of intimacy in this candid chat creep up with kindness and just enough surprise to keep a meaningful pace. As the monologue progresses, we watch humbly as a woman, initially self-conscious of “TMI”, stops apologising for herself and exhales her struggle with a powerful exhaustion.

But the content around how pregnancy has afflicted her body is all just a way into the script’s most rawly confessional moments, where she divulges her strained personal relationship with her body, only exacerbated in motherhood. “Why would I have ever prioritised my body and its needs when I’ve spent my whole life hating it. Of course I fucking didn’t” is a line burned into my brain that has me calling my own mother almost as soon as the credits roll.

Lloyd Malcolm writes a mother that wants to start patching up the wounds inflicted by society to hurt her and her body (even if that’s just to set the right example for her children), but that’s a privilege held only by those who have the time and energy. In all of her powerful love and purpose for her children, she loses herself. Even the proudly feminine bumps and roundness of pregnancy are just a temporary shield against patriarchal pressures.

The film is shot and delivered in one static take — a total testament to Maitland’s performance in all its winding passions, peaks and valleys; we really, truly care for her. There’s a soft simplicity to the production that houses the content well, but the direction does lack a certain creativity we’ve come to anticipate with digital theatre after all this time at our screens. With a characterful script that indulges intimate perspectives on body, labour, and love, there were some visual opportunities missed that could have centred food and the physical with a bit more imagination and elevation.

In all of its honest simplicity, if the least Inside Me can suggest is a little more empathy and intersection within the body positivity movement, then it’s definitely worth a watch.

Inside Me is available to stream until 2 May 2021. For more information, see the Battersea Arts Centre’s website.