Writer/Director Claire Leona Apps explores women’s societal pressures in impactful film ‘Ruminate’

Claire Apps

Claire Leona Apps was an imaginative child, spending her time creating complicated fictitious worlds and trying to convince her friends to enter them with her. She was drawn to anything that represented people, such as dolls, puppets and masks. She collected them from all the interesting places her parents would bring her as a child. She knew she was always meant to tell stories, and as a teenager, ditching the dolls to spend her time in dark rooms staring at film rolls, obsessed with photography, this passion manifested itself into a deep interest in filmmaking.

Now, Apps is recognized for her versatility and commitment to her craft, being a sought-after director and writer. She is best known for films like Gweipo, Girl Blue Running Shoe, Aceh Recovers, and more, with many accolades from well-known film festivals and industry professionals.

The highlight of Apps revered career came with her 2016 feature film And Then I Was French. She spent years writing the script, and it took a lot to get it done. When she finally began filming, she put together a stellar team, and everyone pulled together to make something truly unique. The thriller resonated with audiences, and Apps knew she was doing what she was meant to be doing.

Apps also achieved this with the 2014 film Ruminate. Apps wanted to write and direct a lead character that doesn’t speak. Everything is being said to her or about her. Apps wanted to make a metaphor for all the opinions society has of women; and it leaves her character speechless. The story is about how when women reach a certain age, everyone starts to talk to them about children. It becomes a pressure that comes at them from all directions, and you’re not allowed to choose if you want to be part of the conversation or not. It manifests itself in many different ways and the film goes through a few of them.

“We, worldwide, like to make a laundry list of how women are failing — if we have children, when we have children, if we haven’t had children yet and if we choose not to have children — are all hot topics within that. We only see her react to all these various thoughts and it is up to the audience to read into it in the way they want. Rebecca Hall did a great job at the part. It needed to be played by someone as talented as her,” said Apps.

To ruminate means to think; to chew thoughts over and over, focusing on symptoms of distress, their causes and consequences. Gemma, played by Hall, is in her mid-thirties; a childless woman, casually dating, living in the big city of London, primarily concentrating on work and survival. The years have slipped by and the things that have fallen into place for her friends still elude her. We follow her over two days, never hearing her speak. Instead we witness a series of events that question her happiness, culminating with her gynecologist revealing she has cancerous cells that could affect her ability to bare children. The film shows, not tells, an uncomplicated, poignant and beautiful story about age, being human, a woman, neither a victim nor a victor, and the realization that time waits for no one.

“I called it Ruminate because many people are afflicted with this repeating thought process. Ruminate comes from the word Ruminant which are mammals that have to chew their food over and over and over again — for example, a cow. I found that when I turned thirty there was so much discussion about pregnancy and children. Not all negative, but all the time. It becomes such a loud and real noise around women at a certain stage of their life. I wanted to show someone experiencing it all and just thinking,” Apps described. “What I find remarkable is how some people do not realize the lead character does not speak. They were so convinced she was responding with how they feel about each issue they made up dialogue in their head. It was common. That in itself is a testament for why the film needed to be made.”

The film premiered at the St. Louis International Film Festival and made quite the impact on its audience. Apps recalls watching people get into deep conversations after watching her film. That, for the writer and director, is the greatest accolade there is.

“Women love to tell me their stories, suddenly explaining deep family issues or fears they may have. Men love to tell me their own fears about not being able to have children, because of an accident or an infertile uncle. I deem that as success, making a film that creates conversation, showing another perspective and maybe make us think about our words and our fears,” she concluded.