There’s a standard in the world of filmmaking today. With superhero movies dominating the screen and high-budget period pieces dominating streaming services, There’s never a shortage of entertainment, but these days the market is full of fantasy and projects that clearly had a lot of money behind them.
That’s part of what makes Delicate State so different. Produced entirely by Paula Rhodes and her husband Charlie Bodin, with a little help from their friends, the film was made over the course of Paula’s first pregnancy with a few pickup shots filmed during her second and at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it gives new meaning to the phrase “must-see”.
For context, this film is set in 2015/2016 and all the real-world madness that was already going on in the country. Filmed as a series of video diaries for their future child, things quickly go from pleasant laughter and optimism to fear and the sound of explosions in the distance.
To add to the realism, there are scenes where Paula, Charlie, or both journey out into the city to investigate the sights and sounds they’ve experienced from the protection of their own home. Chillingly, as Paula explained in a live tweet-along, the scenes of destruction were not sets. This was true guerrilla filmmaking with the stars giving us a real look into what was actually happening around them and weaving it effortlessly into their narrative. The catch? There was no script. There was a general outline and the very real reactions of the actors to the world around them.
The film walks a very narrow line, showing us a fictional world that is very believable. A young, unarmed black man is gunned down by a white man claiming he’s doing it in the name of patriotism. As tensions heighten, the couple realizes that life as they knew it is gone. Scenes literally filmed while Paula was in labor give the film a sense of sincerity rarely seen these days.
This film made us laugh, and it made us cry. There were times where it made us feel uncomfortable in a way that more people need to. It made us better understand that even when times are hard for us, there are others who have it so much worse. There are others who fear for their lives simply because of the way they look.
While the film may leave you with a certain feeling of uncertainty, Paula’s hopeful final tweet of the movie conveyed perfectly what was weighing on our hearts and minds: “May it stay docuFICTION.”