When her best friend Fiona suddenly commits suicide, Jane (Jeanette Maus) quickly discovers that there is no easy or conventional way to deal with grief. To complicate her emotions further, Jane cannot understand Fiona’s reasons for her devastating choice: up until her final moments, she was seemingly enjoying life in their start-up business, her relationships with her wife and young son perfect to the external eye. It was, on paper, the image of contentment.
Struggling to find a purpose and heavily consumed with grief she can’t process, Jane begins looking after Fiona’s son Bailey (Elohim Nycalove) whilst his other mother, Gemma (Corbin Reid), continues working as a lawyer. In doing so, Jane unwittingly ingratiates herself into Fiona’s family — her own experience inching closer to the life that her best friend left behind.
As a low-budget lesbian film, My Fiona initially falls into some familiar traps; a lack of refinement shrouds some of the dialogue, the quality of acting is mixed, and the emotional nature of the topic occasionally leads to over-sentimentality. Once the film gets into its stride, however, these minor problems fade away as writer-director Kelly Walker conducts a thorough examination of grief within close female relationships. This examination, concentrated in the relationship between Jane and Gemma, never becomes too bleak, retaining a sense of hope that’s found through the love the pair have for Fiona, Bailey and, eventually, each other.
As the best friend to one of his parents, Jane is naturally close to Bailey, and her carefree nature matches his youthful imagination brilliantly. Their bond is natural, and lovely to watch unfold; Bailey refuses to see Jane as a babysitter, instead referring to her as “his Jane” — a gorgeous reflection on the individuality of a relationship that goes beyond established societal labels. Jane soon realizes, however, that childcare is not all plain sailing. Having lost a parent so suddenly, Bailey begins acting up more and more, complicating his friendship with Jane as she is forced to see the child she loves on a different emotional level. To make things worse, as Jane starts to become more and more parental towards Bailey, Gemma fights back, unable to accept any replacement for Fiona in her life.
Such animosity is effectively punctuated throughout by moments of mutual understanding. As the two closest people to Fiona, both Gemma and Jane find themselves consumed by her memory at all times. During one heartbreaking scene, Gemma finds some of Fiona’s hair trapped on a brush. Overwhelmed by the sudden material presence of someone she misses so desperately, Gemma asks Jane what she’s supposed to do with the hair. The question epitomizes their struggle so far, and contextualizes their situation: with Fiona suddenly gone and a child to raise, what are they supposed to do?
Despite their initial antagonism, Gemma and Jane’s relationship slowly becomes romantic. This narrative choice, born of a closeness caused by death, adds further layers to their despair, as both women are innately aware that they are using the other to try and replace Fiona — or, at least, the hole in their lives left by her absence. As Gemma, Jane and Bailey form an uncomfortable family unit, My Fiona demonstrates director Walker’s understanding of human emotion beyond that which is straightforward, combining grief, love, hate, jealousy, and guilt. Within this strange situation, Walker allows her characters the opportunity to display each of these emotions fully, fleshing out an intricate and meaningful human experience. In its honest and multi-faceted depiction of grief, My Fiona is a standout success, highlighting the complexities of loss whilst avoiding moral judgment.