Bottled Up, an Olympus Pictures narrative film written and directed by Enid Zentelis, is a current Spotlight feature in the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. Starring Oscar winner Melissa Leo, Marin Ireland and Josh Hamilton, it provides a close-up look at the problem of prolonged painkiller addiction and the terrible cost on one mother and daughter’s relationship. How these two ultimately cope with that addiction as well as the friendly stranger who attempts to shine a light on the situation is at the heart of their story.

On Sunday, April 21, I had the opportunity of interviewing Ms. Zentelis about Bottled Up, which I had viewed just the day before. Mine was the last interview of the day, and though she had just completed a number of others, I found her to be remarkably fresh and forthcoming throughout our discussions. She’s a tall, attractive woman, with long black curls and piercing blue eyes that never waver from her subject. She exuded an air of confidence and good humor in her responses, which put us both at ease. The interview was held at the Hilton New York Fashion District offices in a small but comfortable room provided by Tribeca. A representative from Olympus Pictures was present but sat quietly throughout, never interceding in any way on this relaxed atmosphere.

GALO: To begin with, I’d like to know what the genesis of making this film was. I read that you recently settled in Newburgh, New York on the Hudson. Did this have any effect in developing the story?

Enid Zentelis: I think the first kernel were people going through something very similar to Fay and her daughter Sylvie’s situation and my utter despair about it.

GALO: Their co-dependency with the addiction?

EZ: Yes. I make films. I write stories. I think about stories. Other than being with my own family, I get great pleasure from doing that. I wanted to get a handle on it. I wanted some power over these people and that’s the way I get to do it.

GALO: But the genesis of the landscape, did that play into it?

EZ: Absolutely. That had a part — how to set it, how to realize it, all the other aspects that go into putting a picture together.

GALO: Did you see your characters from the beginning as being small town characters with a co-dependency, a mother and daughter team?

EZ: Yes. There was a time that I bandied about doing such a difficult relationship, but ultimately that was the strongest, most difficult, and therefore, the most dramatic. I realized I had a complex about making a film about a mother and daughter. There was an Italian journalist who couched a question to me with my Evergreen film [Zentelis’ feature debut] and you have to let it roll off your back sometimes. I can write all kinds of characters, I have all kinds of stories…the fact that there’s an older woman who happens to be a mother, that that’s less somehow than the next guy making a film about a man…to make a long story short, I’m 40 now and more comfortable in my own skin, and a parent now. I think this relationship in the film is interesting and dramatic — if people have an issue, it’s their issue.

GALO: I find a personal relationship between mother and daughter, however complicated, refreshing. You don’t often see that in film or see women in strong roles over 40, 50, or 60. In terms of assembling this cast, had you known Melissa Leo or Marin Ireland before?

EZ: No. We sent out the script and Melissa responded. I started with the character of Fay; I had to get that cast.

GALO: You were familiar with Leo’s work?

EZ: Of course. I was a huge fan. So, the actors responded and that was a beautiful thing. We started pairing them together. I didn’t have an idea for Sylvie because that had to come off Fay. I wanted to see that dynamic and that’s how we came to Marin. Once that was complete, I needed to find the third party to balance it all out, that would make sense for both of them.

GALO: I thought the actor who played Becket (Josh Hamilton) had something very soft, very quiet and yet masculine — a certain gentleness that was good because when he entered the household he had a calming influence — even if he didn’t understand the manic situation he was walking into — (Laughter). When you wrote the script did you see he would be more attracted to the mother?

EZ: Yes.

GALO: It’s an interesting twist.

EZ: It certainly wasn’t the focus that this film should turn into an autumn/spring romance. One of the reasons I ended the film the way I did and why things resolved the way they did…Becket and Fay had things in common and Sylvie wasn’t in any state of mind to have a relationship with anyone, but it’s not about their attraction to each other. It’s really Fay’s journey that is the main story.

GALO: There’s that lovely scene at the end when she has an opportunity to observe her daughter in the clinic without the daughter seeing her, and the daughter’s doing something that connects the two of them. That’s better than the film being about how Becket was going to make up, if ever, his relationship with Fay.

EZ: I’m glad you feel that way.

GALO: I’m sure it was a watershed moment in your life when Evergreen was produced at Sundance and won the Best First-Time director at the 2004 Sonoma Valley Film Festival. Tell me a little bit about that film.

EZ: Evergreen is about a small town, poor working class family and the younger female lead trying to find her own self-worth and trying to deal with the struggle of where she came from and how she should eventually find her place in the world. These characters were fighting against the landscape in that film.

GALO: You managed to inject some small town humor in Bottled Up, for instance the place where Fay works — “Mailboxes and Thangs” — the other miscellany that Fay gets herself involved with. For instance, there’s the scene when the heavy-set man walks in and wants to know about the nipple piercing.

EZ: It’s a very small town.

GALO: In your Hudson River setting, you touched upon it by having Becket as the environmentalist wandering around, getting his water samples to send to Albany. I think that impressed Fay and her interest in growing things. It’s one way to bring in the landscape.

EZ: It’s so beautiful. My husband grew up there.

(Interview continued on next page)