Sometimes you need to look into the dark spaces as well as into the light.

When I think of the woman that has brought me so much in terms of hope and family and laughter and joy, I think of her lighter roles first. I think of Samantha Carter and Helen Magnus, I think of her goofy sense of humour and her passionate heart, Sanctuary for Kids and all those hugs; but there’s another thing that crosses my mind when I let it, a role I tend to shut out a lot of the time because of it’s power. A role that for me defines Amanda Tapping as an actress, and one that outside of fandom I doubt many will have heard of. The role of Liz in Stuck.

TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION UNDER THE CUT ABOUT CHILD ABUSE. THIS IS NOT TO BE READ BY THOSE WHO COULD BE TRIGGERED. 

Stuck is a story about 4 people trapped in a lift. The uptight Gordon who is about to visit his son, Cindy who appears prudish, but just what is she wearing under that coat? And then Bernie and Liz. The out there couple who go against ‘normal’ preconceptions. We’re presented with a picture that enables us to challenge our own preconceptions. How would we react if we were trapped with a couple who seemingly can’t get enough of each other and who don’t care if the world sees just how much they love each other.

Heroin addict, Liz, is supplied by her boyfriend Bernie (JR Bourne) with the drugs that take the edge off for her. We learn that he never touches them himself and he appears to be spaced out on life in the same way that Liz is on the drugs. They are an intense couple and yes, when I said earlier that they don’t care if the world sees, there is a sex scene. But in a way that’s secondary to the end of the film. The ups and downs of the whole short, culminate in a game of ‘Is my childhood trauma true or made up?’. It’s the power in this last segment that gets to me every time.

By this point, even the most avid Amanda fans will have found they’ve lost site of the actress and see Liz in her place. Everyone else tells their stories first, but when we come to Liz’s tale of abuse at the hands of her father, you can feel the breath catch in your chest as your skin crawls. You want to hug her, you want to go back in time and protect her and you want to smash his head into the side of a barn with no cares as to whether or not he lives or dies. The expressions on Amanda’s face as the tale passes from Liz’s lips is haunting. The pain, the complete and utter shelling of her own identity to tell Liz’s tale is raw and emotive and so disturbing that it resonates deeply in the core of the audience. This is the point where if you haven’t lost sight of who is playing the role, you will. Amanda brings to life such a harrowing tale that it breaks you into a million pieces and I’ve known people struggle (myself included) to put the pieces back together again for a long while after.

The film itself is written so well, and is so emotive that when you add Amanda’s performance it blows you away. The way she says it, so matter of fact in the first place “My father fucked me.” is almost nonchalant if you’re not looking at her eyes. The way she talks about being hung upside down over a railing, being forbidden to wear underpants, the way police and others didn’t believe her and the way others knew but did nothing. Amanda’s eyes darken as Liz relives the past that she claims to be free of in her father’s death, but which you know she’ll never be free from.  When Gordon meets her with incredulity and asks why she didn’t go to another town, to another police department who would have done something, her reply hits you right in the stomach, knocking the wind out of you:

“You know, Asshole, that’s not how it feels when it’s happening to you. It feels like no one will ever believe you.”

The way Liz talks about faith, if you’ve not already been broken to shreds will push you over the edge. The look of sheer contempt on her face as she faces Gordon telling them they have to have faith would be enough, but then you add the following:

“You think I’d be here today if I didn’t have faith? Jesus! I honestly believe it’s going to get better! But it never does. Fuck, if I didn’t have faith, I’d try to off myself 24/7, not just once in a while.”

Amanda’s performance is breathtaking throughout the entire film. It twists your insides out and wrings them through a grinder. You’re left looking deeper inside yourself than you ever have before and questioning everything you thought about stereotypes and reasons for people living the lives they live. I watch the film maybe once every 18 months for personal reasons. And I never fail to come away in need of a stiff drink, comfort food, a good cry and a hug. If there’s one film that will always break me into a million pieces and allow me to start rebuilding again, it’s this one. 

I don’t think that I could ever fully put into words the torrent of emotion that comes in watching this film and Amanda’s performance into it. It’s taken me an hour to write this post. Possibly just over, I’m still shaking as I finish typing it. When something leaves you with that amount of emotion, it’s hard not to think about things in a way you wouldn’t normally.  Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to go into more detail on exactly what I feel on watching it. But for now, this is my best attempt.

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