Belfast Telegraph

'It's important to have women not just in front of the camera but behind too - directing, producing and writing'

Balance, Not Symmetry is the story of a student at Glasgow School of Art whose life is upended when her father unexpectedly dies. Stars Laura Harrier and Bria Vinaite share their thoughts on the film's themes, building the characters and changes in the TV and film industry with Georgia Humphreys

Best friends: Laura Harrier as Shirley-Caitlyn and Bria Vinaite as Hannah
Best friends: Laura Harrier as Shirley-Caitlyn and Bria Vinaite as Hannah

By Georgia Humphreys

Female friendship is the focus of many a film that hits cinemas. It's what is at the core of coming-of-age drama Balance, Not Symmetry, from film-maker Jamie Adams and made in close conjunction with Scottish band Biffy Clyro.

Part of the appeal for stars Laura Harrier (29) and Bria Vinaite (26) was how it shows that, for people in their 20s, "the most important relationship in your life is that with your best friend".

"It's rare to see. These girls really love each other and they're each other's most important relationship - it doesn't have to be romantic in order for it to be important," says Chicago-born Harrier, who's also starred in Spider-Man: Homecoming and BlacKkKlansman.

The friendship isn't without its issues, of course, but in the end they get through them together and "realise they have each other".

Best friends: Laura Harrier as Shirley- Caitlyn and Bria Vinaite as Hannah
Best friends: Laura Harrier as Shirley- Caitlyn and Bria Vinaite as Hannah

"I think, in most movies, if she'd have slapped me, I'd have stopped being her friend, but that didn't happen," Lithuanian Vinaite - known for her role in comedy-drama The Florida Project - says with a smile.

So, we know there's a slap scene.

"The first few takes, she was doing it so light that by the third one I literally screamed at her, 'Slap me for the sake of art, Laura!'" says Vinaite as they both laugh at the memory. "It was really funny."

But what else can we expect from Balance, Not Symmetry?

Well, it centres around Shirley-Caitlin (played by Harrier), a Scottish-American studying at Glasgow School of Art whose life is turned upside down when her father dies suddenly.

She decides to finish her third-year studies after the funeral, leaving her grieving mother behind, but struggles to deal with her sense of loss.

Trying to regain balance in her life, she finds inspiration from provocative fellow student Hannah (Vinaite).

Discussing why the characters felt right for them to play, Harrier says: "First and foremost, our relationship with each other was really the foundation of this film.

"Finding these characters was about these two girls finding themselves through their friendships and the trials of their lives.

"Obviously, with it being improvisation-based, a lot of ourselves is in it, but I think that we're both still definitely playing characters - this isn't a documentary about being Laura and Bria.

"It was, I think, some of our own life experiences influencing these characters.

"You know, dealing with loss and dealing with this friendship... emotional things through a creative output."

Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil
Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil

"Just being there for a friend when they're going through something, even if you might not necessarily understand why it's taking so long," adds Vinaite.

"Everybody deals with grief differently and you just have to be a good friend through it."

Having each other's support in real life helped the pair get through what was an intense shoot across various locations in Scotland.

"I definitely was a little homesick, for food and for weather," says Vinaite, who now lives in the US.

"Because it was really cold when we were there. I also missed hot sauce. We bought all the sriracha they had at Sainsbury's."

"They only had three bottles and we bought all of them," adds Harrier.

Not only is Balance, Not Symmetry a moving piece of cinema, it also pays tribute to Scotland (particularly Glasgow) and its art and music.

As well as writing the score for the film, the lead singer of Scottish band Biffy Clyro, Simon Neil, worked with Adams on the script too.

"I think it's really special when a whole soundtrack to a film is done by one band. That doesn't happen often," says Vinaite.

"Going into it, I was really excited knowing it was all going to be a cohesive piece of work.

"Each song represents the scene that it was on, which is really rare."

The project definitely presented a new and different challenge for this lively, fun duo (they bounce off each other really well during our chat, with lots of giggling), who no doubt both have exciting careers ahead of them.

Harrier has just finished shooting a sci-fi film with Tom Hanks called Bios, which is due to released next year.

"I love doing big-budget movies and having fun with that," she says. "But then it's awesome to be able to do something like this that's more artistic and creative.

"It's really good to have an input in the story and collaborate with people."

Vinaite, meanwhile, is currently busy making her own animated show.

"It's going to be a comedy but will talk about important subjects like mental health, identity and struggles," she says.

There's a lot of discussion at the moment about how this is a progressive time for the TV and film industry.

Do they feel empowered knowing there are, perhaps, more opportunities and variety when it comes to roles for women now?

"Yeah, sure," says Vinaite. "I also think it's a really special time because way more women are getting into different positions than they have been.

"I'm creating a show right now. I'm producing it and I'm in it. I feel like learning all the different elements of everything else that happens is so interesting. It makes me so much more passionate about creating.

"Finally, more women are in these roles and we could get even more. It's a great time to be an actress."

"What's so important as well is to have women not just in front of the camera but behind as well - directing and producing and writing," Harrier says.

"That's how more people's stories get told."

Balance, Not Symmetry is in cinemas now

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