Small, Beautifully Moving Parts

| September 18, 2012

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts is a funny—yet serious—story about a young woman who would rather play with her i-Pad than plan on the upcoming delivery of her new baby. But once it all sets in that she is, indeed, expecting, she feels a need to re-connect with her parents—a mother whom she hasn’t seen or heard from in years and a father who is communicating online with a woman across the globe whom he has never seen.

Sarah, played by Anna Margaret Hollyman, runs a tech consulting firm in New York, and she can probably dismantle and rebuild a computer system in no time at all, but she is not as responsive with her feelings about motherhood. Her boyfriend Leon, played by Andre Holland, seems helpless in so many ways, but he is in her corner when he reluctantly allows her to travel from New York to Los Angeles for a baby shower that her sister has planned. He questions why the sister can’t come to New York and throw a baby shower there, but it’s probably because Sarah doesn’t have many breathing friends in New York, since she is obsessed with technology.

However, in the middle of the baby shower, she is overcome with desperation and ambivalence, because she doesn’t exactly know what she should feel. She leaves California to travel the desert to Arizona to visit her father. Lo and behold! If she were trying to get away from gadgets, she discovers that her father is “Skyping” with a woman from South America, and he is frantically losing the connection. He barely welcomes her before asking if she can fix the problem, as he doesn’t want his online love to think that he isn’t serious about the relationship.

While she is still at her father’s home, he emails the mother, saying that Sarah wants to visit. The mother doesn’t want to see Sarah, because she had her own turn at feeling ambivalent about motherhood, as she had abandoned Sarah and her sister while they were still young. And since Small, Beautifully Moving Parts is chock full of technology and instruments to deliver messages—not the good old fashioned way via telephone—but through modern technology, the mother actually faxes her disapproval of a visit from the daughter. But Sarah is relentless and is determined to drive to see her mom, anyway. Her mother is holed up in a retreat near the Grand Canyonand has a taken a vow of silence, which she is happy to break to have a bit of conversation with her daughter. This is only after Sarah uses a baby monitor to coerce her mother out of the house.

All throughout the movie, I’m wondering when the boyfriend will just go bonkers and use GPS to track his woman down. Finally, he does so, right as Sarah is leaving her mother’s home, without finding many answers. She seems as bewildered as she was at the beginning of the movie.

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts is a testament to the fact that while technology has its advantages and we are a more advanced society because of innovations, people are still somewhat alienated and removed because of our ability to “tune out” and exclude others at the push of a button or the click of a mouse. It was an interesting enough movie, but I never bought the idea that a woman would go on a road trip by herself, while about six months pregnant and in a fragile state—even if the quest was to find her mother and hopefully, eventually herself.

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts is from New York-based filmmakers Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson and is available on Blu-ray and DVD September 4 from Film Movement. Visit

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!

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