This is a true gem of a movie that has tremendous depth, exploring sensitive topics like teen sex, teen pregnancy,its repercussions and fears that accompany women through marriage & motherhood. The subject matter is controversial but in the hands of capable writer-director Hilary Brougher, the story is told with clarity, poignancy and sensitivity.
The story centers around Stephanie Daley, a 16 year old teenager who is accused of murdering her newborn infant daughter whilst on a school ski trip. The role is played to perfection by Amber Tamblyn, and her portrayal of a shy adolescent trying to find a social niche at school is at times hard to watch, though played with a high level of credibility. The flashbacks of Stephanie recalling the past, especially the public restroom scene of the birth itself is something one will not soon forget, and Amber Tamblyn portrays the teen's pain, horror and shame to chilling effect.
The other main role, that of forensic psychologist Lydia Crane is played by Tilda Swinton. Lydia herself is five months pregnant, and beset with doubts about her impending motherhood [having suffered a stillbirth a year ago] and also the strains on her emotionally fragile marriage [husband is played by Timothy Hutton]. Lydia's job is to evaluate Stephanie's mental capacity before a competency hearing. Swinton is well-cast as the emotionally fragile Crane, but ultimately her problems do not seem to be as serious as the ones facing young Stephanie. It is indeed to Tamblyn's credit that she makes the viewer care so much more about Stephanie and wanting to see how she comes out of the crisis. Throughout Stephanie's sessions with Crane, and especially in the flashbacks, one feels a strong sense of sympathy for the fragile teen who seems lost and frightened, and increasingly isolated.
All in all, Stephanie Daley is a compelling human drama that portrays a sensitive topic with unflinching and painful honesty. Highly recommended!