Embrace (Taryn Brumfitt, 2016)

“Why do so many people hate their bodies and what can we do about it?”

After having three children, Taryn Brumfitt hated how she looked and, like many women, she fantasised about having the perfect bikini body. But does the so-called perfect body equal happiness? Eager to find out, Taryn trained for and participated in a body building competition. Strutting her stuff up on the stage she realised she still didn’t feel good about herself. Months of physical, emotional and social sacrifice had amounted to obtaining the ideal physique, but it wasn’t worth it. She went back to enjoying the foods she liked, being less obsessive about exercise, and having more time for her family. And she was finally able to embrace her body.

Is one of these better than the others? Why?
Taryn Brumfitt.

Taryn then uploaded a ‘Before and After’ photo to Facebook, but with a catch. In her ‘Before’ shot she was lean and muscular, and in the ‘After’ shot she had tummy rolls and cellulite. It went viral, and the response was mixed. Some attacked her for promoting obesity, while others commended her for spreading a positive body image message. The overwhelming response prompted Taryn to take her message of positive body acceptance on the road, and with the help of Kickstarter she made the wonderful documentary, Embrace.

Taryn with her daughter.
Taryn with her daughter.

It’s a film that is both horribly depressing in parts but ultimately inspiring overall. Taryn interviews several women including a model, a magazine editor, a delightful French actress, a woman battling anorexia, women with physical deformities, as well as everyday people she finds on the street. They all have a similar story to tell about obsession, self-worth, and learning to embrace their bodies for what they are. There are disturbing stories to be told – about models filling their stomachs by swallowing cotton buds, photographers and designers refusing to work with larger women, the pro-anorexia websites filling up the web, and the messages of hate that women are bombarded with day in and day out. The comments on Taryn’s before and after shot are enough to make viewers lose all faith in humanity.

Taryn Brumfitt with Turia Pitt
Taryn with Turia Pitt.

The statistics offered by the film are devastating, and they highlight how these issues start so young. Taryn’s film is clearly dedicated to her daughter, who she hopes will manage to grow up and escape the negative mindset that plagues so many women. This is a film that MUST be seen by high school students, and while it’s most certainly aimed at women, there is much to be gained by making this compulsory viewing for teenage boys as well. It may prove an eye-opener on the destructive nature of appearance-based comments, as well as problematic attitudes towards women. It is incredibly disheartening to hear, however, that Embrace has received an MA15+ rating, due to a scene where the growing trend of labiaplasty is discussed and accompanied by pictures of various vaginas of different shapes and sizes. Because OMG VAGINAS, WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN. Most of us came out of one, and half of us have one, so calm the hell down, censorship board. While an MA15+ rating means that teenagers under the age of fifteen will still be able to see the film as long as an adult is present, it means that the film’s trailer will not screen in any movies with ratings lower than an MA15+ rating, thus limiting its reach to the audiences who need to see it the most. Get the word out to every young person you know.

All bodies are beautiful.
All bodies are beautiful.

Despite inciting anger and sadness at the current state of the beauty industry, fortunately,Embrace offers a message of hope. That we can fight against the industry that wants us to hate ourselves, that we can appreciate our bodies for more than how they look, and that we can like how we look no matter how far we deviate from the norm. It may not happen overnight, but films like this one are certainly helping to pave the way for a glorious new mindset.

4 stars

This review was first published at Film Blerg.

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