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'Stephanie Daley'

At a high-school party, Stephanie Daley (Amber Tamblyn) marches straight into the requisite rape room and walks out pregnant. Back at her district's parochially slanted blackboard jungle, she is relentlessly reminded of the bulge she's trying to ignore: The health teacher preaches abstinence and asks everyone to nurse beeper eggs while The Scarlet Letteris all the rage in English class. Writer-director Hilary Brougher knows how to rub it in, but Tamblyn is fearless in her attempt to save the narrative from falling into clichéd sermonizing. When Stephanie's baby ends up dead in a toilet bowl, Tilda Swinton enters as Lydia, the forensic psychologist hired to learn who knew what when. There's an unpretentious complexity to Brougher's paralleling of Stephanie and Lydia's private lives, and though the story is littered with contrivance, the actresses keep things recognizably human, advancing a rather affecting message about shared female experience that advocates both empathy and accountability.

 
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