It's difficult for me to find interest in "women's films" or "chick flicks" unless the chicks in question are practicing martial arts, wielding machine guns or fighting zombies. But I was charmed by 'Small, Beautifully Moving Parts,' a portrait of a woman who generally prefers the company of technological items over humans until she becomes pregnant and ultimately decides to seek advice from her mother.
Sarah Sparks (Anna Margaret Hollyman) is a "freelance technologist" who loves taking things apart to examine all the components, as you might guess from the movie's title. Even when she is waiting for her pregnancy test to show its results, she admires the way the test is put together. She primarily communicates with people in an interview style, stopping folks in a park or on the street to ask their opinion about whatever question is on her mind at the moment. The exception is her husband Leon (Andre Holland), a supportive guy who is almost too good to be true and might make you envy Sarah just a bit.
After a trip to California for a disastrous baby shower thrown by her sister Emily, Sarah feels like she's not ready to be a mom. She wants her own mom. It turns out, though, that her mother is not especially easy to find. Sarah ends up on a road trip, visiting her equally tech-loving dad and her husband's sister Towie (Susan Kelechi Watson), a masseuse who believes in all kinds of odd things. Sarah isn't worried about the road trip because she has her GPS to guide her and her phone to keep her connected ... until they stop working and she enters a techie-free zone.
The performances in 'Small, Beautifully Moving Parts' are terrific across the board, unusual for a low-budget indie film. Hollyman comes across as a less flaky, more grounded version of Drew Barrymore, and her character feels realistically pregnant without the usual sitcom-y pregnant-lady antics. The movie is also beautifully shot, especially once Sarah enters Arizona. Although it's hardly a plot-heavy movie, it never drags or feels slow.
'Small, Beautifully Moving Parts' filmmakers Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson have given me exactly what I want from a drama about women: smart characters who aren't restrained by stereotypes and who behave believably if not predictably, with a sense of humor that isn't mean. Here's hoping that the filmmakers have the opportunity to share this movie with as many people -- male and female -- as possible.