Small, Beautifully Moving Parts, which plays till Thursday at 7 and 9 PM, uses the relationship between two sets of mothers and daughters to explore our complex relationship with technology. Sarah who’s set to have a baby girl is a wizard with all things technological but wholly unprepared for being a mother. This is largely because Sarah, played splendidly by Anna Margaret Hollyman, associates motherhood with the way her mother abandoned her and the subsequent anger she feels toward her. But, also Sarah’s intense relationship with technology has made her somewhat unfeeling and unattuned to her emotions.
On the surface, the film revolves around Sarah’s journey to confront her mother and her fear of becoming her. However, the film is fundamentally set up as a parable for the manners in which technology affects us and how we cope with it. One of the largest barriers to Sarah and her mother’s relationship is the opposing ways in which they interpret technology in their own lives. While Sarah marvels at the beauty and utility of machines, her mother feels pressured to “get off the grid” by escaping to the
desert. A third option is offered by Towie, Sarah’s sister-in-law, who endeavors to live a basic, instinctive lifestyle amongst the monument to modernity that is Arizona . The film does not advocate a certain approach as being better than another, but rather offers a holistic examination of each one. The correct path is for the viewer to decide. Las Vegas
In one memorable scene, Sarah’s father is too preoccupied with the Brazilian woman he’s scyping with to pay attention to the needs of his pregnant daughter, demonstrating the dual effect of technology to bring us together as well as to distance us. This is a key theme of the film and one that profoundly resonates in our uber-connected age when we readily use computers and phones to link up with each other at the expense of genuine, direct bonding.
The every-day devices we take for granted have an amazing influence on our lives that we’re not completely cognizant of. They make our lives so much easier but they also rob us of little bits of our individuality and essential humanity. As she travels across the desert in search of her maker, Sarah’s treasured gadgets lose power one-by-one leaving her alone to confront the scary world around her. This has several effects on her: first, she feels very anxious because she has become so reliant on her mechanical helpers; but, she begins to redevelop her sense of independence which allows her to connect with herself on a deep level.
Technology has this effect on all of us. It has an extraordinary and irresistible capacity to smoothen our daily lives but it can be addicting and devaluing towards what’s truly meaningful. As evidence, I’ve checked Facebook nearly a dozen times while writing this piece and each time found nothing actually relevant to my life but still found myself coming back every ten or so minutes. My main personal dependency is Facebook, for others it might be television, YouTube, text-messaging, or, even, the Facets blog. But for most of us, it’s all of the above and so much more.
Devoid of all the distracting and nagging dependencies she has for modern technology, Sarah is able to finally accept her newfound status as mother and to affirm the beauty of life.
The power of the film comes from its subtle but potent study of the conscious and unconscious ways in which technology affects the type of people we are. This is surely a theme that anyone can relate to, not just mothers and daughters.
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