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When 16-year-old Stephanie Daley (Amber Tamblyn, Joan of Arcadia) is accused of murdering her newborn, she claims she never knew she was pregnant and that the child was stillborn. Forensic psychologist Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton) is hired to determine the truth behind Stephanie's continuing state of denial. Pregnant herself and grappling with a growing intuition that something may go wrong with her own unborn child, Lydie's encounters with Stephanie soon lead her to believe that unraveling the teenager's mystery is crucial to her own fate. Co-starring Timothy Hutton and Denis O'Hare. Written and directed by Hilary Brougher.
 

  Stephanie Daley

Adolescence is the time when, if we haven’t already done so, we refine our ability to lie—the big lies, little lies in between and the lies we don’t even realize are lies until we glance backward at them from the future and see them for what they are. If childhood is a sunny afternoon we remember for bursts of spontaneous honesty, puberty is the night we dig a hole in the yard and bury our imagination—and with it some part of our ability to tell the truth. Superstition is one of the stumps of imagination that survives.

When I was a kid, I had a superstition about a step in the staircase I avoided. It had a particularly sad looking eye that gazed up from a knot in the wood. Who wants to step on an eye...? I didn’t. And what’s more, skipping that step on the way from my bedroom out into the uncertain world beyond it gave me a misguided but necessary sense of control.

And that’s the little acorn with which I started to write Stephanie Daley—a girl who skips a stair because it makes her feel safe. Then (since this is fiction) I took it further and gave Stephanie something to practice lying about—an unexpected pregnancy that she convinces herself and the world around her isn’t happening. I researched and discovered that “surprise” deliveries happen a lot, crossing boundaries of race, privilege and knowledge. Some have happy endings and some end tragically. When I told people I was writing about a teenager with a concealed pregnancy, they would tell me about a cousin or a friend that “something like this” once happened to, and sometimes they looked thoughtful and said, “That could have been me....

I wanted to explore how this could happen. The answer I discovered lay not in a specific moment but in the sum of many small moments when a small conversation that could have changed Stephanie’s course could have happened, but didn’t.

Meanwhile, closer to home, all the grown-ups in my life were getting pregnant, or, even more bravely—trying to. Inevitably, I joined their number, tried to get pregnant, failed, and then when I least expected it, conceived twins. And during all this I noticed something interesting...I noticed that even the most honest, fully-realized among us were making it look way too easy. We would chat about calendars, swells and tingles and share bits of medical insight...but the darker stuff we carried quietly. There is a solid primal want of privacy behind this quiet, but also some superstition. No one wants to jinx a pregnancy with negativity—and so like Stephanie, we banish it. A friend, seven months along, once told me that she meant it when she smiled at the world, because she had never felt so connected to everyone and everything—but at the same time, she had never felt so incredibly alone.

This is the film’s point of entry for Lydie, the pregnant psychologist who interviews Stephanie. Every rite of passage involves some darkness, some loss, some fear, and a dose of superstition. Preparing for children is no exception. And I’m not talking about birth, I’m talking about what we do before we bring home a child, whether by birth or adoption.

I’m talking about the demolition work both women and men must do to make way...Some of us let the wrecking ball swing ourselves, happily reducing our past lives to an unrecognizable pile of timbers. Some of us neatly renovate just one room and order a nest in a flat box from IKEA, and some of us wake up terribly surprised, and just deal with it. However it happens, it’s a part of the human story worth telling. And that’s why in this film, grown-up Lydie needs young Stephanie—to start a conversation that needs starting, to tell a story that needs telling, because once we start telling stories, at least we’re not alone.