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Scar (2019)

A seventeen-year-old girl, Scarlett (Casey Landman), and her dad (Travis Mitchell) go to the doctor to have a growth on Scarlett’s neck examined. The worst comes true and Scarlett finds out that, like many in her family before her, she has cancer. Chemotherapy will leave her with physical scars, but she will soon find that the mental Scar that the battle with cancer creates can be far worse. This is the story of Scarlett as she faces her toughest challenge yet.

Honesty is key, and honestly, Scar sucks. No, not in the sense that it’s poorly made, but regarding the fact that it is emotionally devastating from almost the opening moments. If you struggle with emotion and you find yourself becoming an emotional wreck during films, prepare yourself for what you will see in Scar, because it will tear you apart. The majority of that emotional pull, that element that makes you want to break down and cry, comes from Landman. Almost brand new to cinema, Landman makes a splash here as she engulfs viewers in an ocean of emotion as she navigates the struggles of her treatment and of being a teenager. Landman is beautiful in her performance as she perfectly exudes what we all might consider the ugly cry with great aplomb. I believed every second of her performance, but even more than believing it, her portrayal of Scarlett is so strong that there were moments that I felt that these horrible things were happening to me. I began to wonder how I would deal with the sting of finding out that I had cancer, what I would do next, and ultimately how I would handle things emotionally–and this all came from Landman’s talent.

While Landman is the vehicle by which nearly all of the emotion is understood, writer-director Alison Hale puts her in the right positions to find success in her role. Scarlett eating pizza, joking about Lymphoma being contagious, or hanging out with her friend are simple scenes that explore the times between treatment, and they remind viewers that, while cancer can often consume someone, it doesn’t have to. Furthermore, there is a line spoken by Scarlett that is something along the lines of having just enough time between treatments to feel almost normal, and then you have to do it again. This reflects the perpetual cycle of necessary pain inflicted on individuals struggling with cancer–and it’s moments like these, developed by Hale, that allow Landman to shine so incredibly bright. Hale seems to have a clear understanding of this process–and her ability to empathize with cancer patients and their families from behind the camera and as she developed Scar’s script speaks volumes and provides tremendous insight for everyone watching.

Again, Hale seems to have a firm grasp on how to present this topic to viewers, and that’s clear throughout Scar. There is a decision made regarding sound that I never would have considered, but it makes perfect sense. While a great portion of Scar is meant to help viewers understand the struggles of someone dealing with cancer, it’s also here to remind them that, unless they’ve been there, they can’t ever truly understand. There are a number of times throughout Scar that hears Scarlett’s voice become muffled. While viewers can still hear the struggling teen, we can’t fully understand what she’s saying–and that creates a separation between character and viewer, and this perfectly replicates the relationship between cancer patient and onlooker in the real world.

Again, Scar sucks because it’s so emotionally daunting. If you walk away from this film unscathed I have to question whether or not you’re actually human, because between Hale and Landman, there is very little in terms of emotional turmoil left to the imagination. I felt like I was part of this world, and sometimes even like this was my life. I can’t think of a better way to express the sentiments present in Scar, and the film is an absolute success as a result.

Written & Directed by Alison Hale.

Starring Casey Landman, Travis Mitchell, Jennifer Piech, Amna Vegha, Frank Di Napoli, & Sania Hyatt.




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