By David Berry

When we first meet Edith (Leah Goldstein), the struggling actress at the centre of Diamond Tongues, she seems almost sweetly parodic, tinged with the sort of mildly clueless desperation we find in the loveable loser. She awkwardly tries to make friends with a crew member at the wrap of her most recent movie shoot, and later briefly perks up when her agent tells her she’s “too thin” for a potential role — as a morbidly obese woman. Small victories for a small life.

These hints of quirk and cheery humour pretty quickly start to drain out of her, though, as she meanders her way through the low-key industry parties and late-night streets of Toronto. Stuck a notch or several below her friends and frenemies, her sense of ennui is channelled into a bitterness towards the world, one that swells and pops at the sight of virtually anyone else’s happiness. Soon, she is playing telephone-brag with the accomplishments of friends she has just finished dismissing, fruitlessly covering up the posters of her friend’s plays and literally masturbating to the thought of being interviewed on national television.

The second feature by Pavan Moondi and Brian Robertson, Diamond Tongues lives in its careful attention to detail, the meticulous but breezy way it captures Edith’s meandering life as much as her increasingly destructive disenchantment. Conversations make room for mundane touches as Edith’s anger, depression and brief bouts of calm ebb and flow with the people around her. Stuffed with songs from Toronto’s indie music scene, Diamond Tongues frequently gives itself over to simply watching Edith wander the city’s unremarkably lived-in places, trying to escape the reminders of her failure through petty routine.

There’s no running away from yourself, though, and as good as the movie is at evoking the drab world of artists on the verge of even being able to call themselves that, it more fundamentally captures the slow realization that your problems all have one thing in common: yourself. Quick to dismiss the stupidity of everyone in the industry and even quicker to subtly sabotage anything that reminds her of other people’s success, Edith’s flailing inevitably starts bruising her own body, culminating in a series of bitter recriminations masked as conversations.

Edith’s realization verges on too-pointed for a film that trades up on muted observation, although in its way it’s an ideal hit of cold water on the self-satisfied artist world it evokes so well. As much as anything, this is a film that has heard every excuse about why life isn’t working out quite the way you want, been told all the just-so stories of the clever and talented whom the world has failed to recognize. Even if you’re right about the world, Diamond Tongues seems to be saying you still have to find a way to live in it. The saving grace is that trying is all that is necessary.

Source: National Post