Runtime: 20 minutes
Director/Writer: Marianne Farley
Actors: Karine Gonthier-Hyndman, Chantal Baril, Kent McQuaid
By Valerie Kalfrin
A woman stands on a snowy street, tugging her hood over her head to hide her face from the passing police cars more than the cold. Within moments, a meat truck pulls over, the driver asking what she ate that morning.
“Water lilies,” she says. Satisfied, he nods for her to climb up with money, then unlocks the trailer, a freezer full of hanging meat and secrets.
Welcome to the world of “Frimas”, a short from Oscar-nominated writer-director Marianne Farley (Marguerite) that criticizes the brutality of anti-abortion laws without sentiment, preaching, or histrionics. “Frimas” simply takes viewers along through one desperate woman’s journey, one that threatens incarceration as well as her life.
The meat locker on wheels is an unnerving place for a clandestine abortion clinic, with slabs of beef swaying on metal hooks as Kara (Karine Gonthier-Hyndman, In Broad Daylight) steps aboard. It’s no stretch to imagine her own fear of being butchered, even as a greater fear sends her here for help.
As the truck rolls along, a doctor (Chantal Baril, Pour toi Flora) appears from a hidden compartment where she’s set up a makeshift workspace. She asks Kara brief questions about her health, offering her a blanket for the metal table.
“Frimas” maintains suspense from its opening moments, thanks to the secretive setup aboard the truck, and escalates the tension during a traffic stop where Hubert and Kara must hide while the driver, Benji (Kent McQuaid, Barkskins), deals with the police. Subtle music from Frannie Holder tightens the screws unobtrusively while cinematographer Benoit Beaulieu highlights Kara’s fear and isolation during this intimate procedure. Overhead shots show the truck alone on a snowy highway while Kara’s point of view from the table fixates on a hook above her.
Farley doesn’t shy away from showing blood or the doctor’s machinations, which might be too gritty for some viewers; others might take issue with Kara’s reasons. The no-nonsense doctor scolds her only for lying about how far along she is, which endangers Kara’s life and the whole enterprise. Still, the doctor isn’t without compassion. “We do what we can in life,” she says.
As abortion advocates argue for keeping this procedure safe and legal for both women’s health and autonomy, “Frimas” offers a stark view of a possible alternative. The French title translates to “wintry weather,” and its environment for a woman with few options is cold indeed.