Fruitless is a dark comedy short about a 40-something woman who goes to desperate lengths to join a young mom's group that meets outside her window. The film is written by, directed by and starring Robyn Paris and produced by Sierra Padilla, Raeann Giles and Maria Byron Trent.
I wrote, directed and starred in the dark comedy Fruitless to delve into the more uncomfortable and nuanced elements of womanhood. Fruitless isn't just a short about a woman trying to get pregnant; it's a story of a 40 something woman desperately and fruitlessly wanting to belong, while struggling with aging in a society that values youth. The protagonist doesn't need a man to be happy. Rather, she desperately craves membership in a special group of younger women. Rarely are deeply flawed, toxic female characters explored in film. And when a woman is portrayed wanting a baby – it’s usually for all the right reasons. Fruitless turns that expectation on its head.
As society progresses, filmmakers are more frequently allowed to embrace flawed depictions of women. However, when we are told exactly how we must portray women and encouraged to depict them in pre-defined ways in order to be accepted (strong, empowered, right, intelligent), we are again limiting the female expression of humanity through art. Men are celebrated for exploring all aspects of humanity in film through weak and toxic characters, empowered characters, strong characters, anti-heroes and everything in between. I argue that for women to truly be considered artistic equals, they must be allowed to be flawed, weak, wrong, heinous and ugly. Fruitless depicts an "unlikable" woman wanting a child to join the "in crowd." The character is compelling and colorful yet unapologetically misguided, morose and desperate.
I wrote Fruitless and chose to embody the character because motherhood for me was a time for bonding with other women over the shared newness, wonder, and stress of caring for a baby. When my babies grew into children, life progressed and that time was gone. With the honeymoon stage of motherhood over, I no longer had a tight circle of female support and I missed the connection. When I see groups of young new moms together, I feel envious - like an outsider peering in on a special, precious and irreplaceable time in a woman's life. I'm not alone in this feeling. Many women crave motherhood and there is nothing "disempowered" about it. It just is. The story of Fruitless was inspired by the wistful longing to belong to that young mom group, even if briefly, one more time - and the subsequent guilt and sense of internal conflict this elicits in me and others in a judgmental society that sometimes punishes high achieving women for becoming mothers.
Fruitless is an edgy story about want, loss and loneliness...and it’s funny. In it, I mine the comedy inherent in desperation and neediness - comedy grounded in pain – the type of comedy present in everyday life. Deeply flawed men have served as compelling protagonists for years (Fargo, The Godfather, Jerry Maguire - this list goes on). Women deserve a chance to explore the same full and vibrant range of human existence. The success of series like Fleabag and Dead to Me demonstrates that we crave more stories about damaged women - because they are human and real.