FROM JESSIE BARR:
It's a powerful thing to witness a human being sharing with another a sense of being human; sharing the unfathomable. SOPHIE JONES is a story about that very thing: a young woman's experience of the unfathomable. The script is inspired by my cousin Jessica's true experiences but we are not seeking to replicate things that have already happened. Instead, the film is transforming a version of experiences that are real for Jessica and me and the other actors and crew as we make this story real for an audience.
Jessica and I spent about eight months working together on the script. When she first approached me about directing it I didn't say yes right away. I think it was because I knew that saying yes would mean giving myself fully and completely to this and diving into my own trauma. When I was a junior in high school I lost my father to cancer which is the same age Jessica was when she lost her mom to the disease. I realized very quickly however that this is a story I had to tell. It had taken me over, completely and from the moment Jess first sent me an early draft it was already happening, in motion, I was on the ride and I just had to fully surrender myself to it and take the leap. SOPHIE JONES is a story I feel called to tell, for our parents and for anyone who has or will experience loss.
I believe strongly that the more personal the story the more universal the resonance. SOPHIE JONES explores grief through a very specific lens, but the obstacles that Sophie faces and the themes the film explores are ones that we can all relate to. In the film we get an intimate look at a Sophie’s experience of grief after losing her mother. Sophie uses her sexuality to feel alive and undergoes an artistic awakening as she struggles to transition from girlhood to womanhood. Ultimately, Sophie finds that numbness doesn’t last forever and the pain we feel from a profound loss can actually be a strange gift that transforms and opens our hearts to a deep and everlasting tenderness, a blown open rawness. SOPHIE JONES explores the idea that our grief isn't something that ever goes away, it evolves. Grief is a kind of wound, a vulnerability, a rawness that shifts how we see the world and can be a strange gift that transforms our humanity. This isn't the end for Sophie Jones, it's just the beginning.
SOPHIE JONES is a story about loss but also about the unexpected comic moments that go hand in hand with heartbreak, healing and high school. The critical and popular acclaim of Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age comedy Ladybird as well as its financial success proves there is a hunger for female coming-of-age stories. Like Ladybird, SOPHIE JONES embraces both the comic, awkward fumbling and the bold directness that comes along with a teenage girl discovering her sexual agency but does so within the context of grief, with reverence and without judgment. I’m inspired stylistically by the Norwegian coming-of-age comedy Turn Me On, Dammit! by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen and by Marielle Heller’s Diary of a Teenage Girl, with their honest, comic, and raw moments woven seamlessly together. The look of the film is hand held, visceral, and immersed in Sophie’s point of view. Andrea Arnold’s visual style of documentary-esque, character-based narratives with professional actors and non actors is a huge influence for the film as are the photographers Rania Matar, Nan Goldin, Rineke Dijkstra, William Eggleston and the authors Joan Didion and Mary Oliver.