Stephanie Daley revolves around the actions of its titular character, a quiet, well-spoken sixteen-year-old girl played by Amber Tamblyn, who gets herself pregnant on the first try, carries the child to term and then delivers it in an isolated bathroom during a ski trip and suffocates it with toilet paper. Collapsing from blood loss in the snow minutes afterwards, her situation is immediately discovered and becomes a sensation for the media, which tags her with one of those disposable, insensitive monikers designed to grab a fickle audience and hold them for a few minutes: 'the ski mom.' In a neat dramatic contrivance, Daley, as preparation for her criminal trial, is ordered to be evaluated by 40-something forensic psychologist Lydie Crane (Tilda Swinton) who is heavily pregnant after a long and draining struggle to be so -- a struggle that included a prior pregnancy resulting in stillbirth. We eventually learn that, against the wishes of her now distant husband, Lydie chose to have that stillborn disposed of like medical waste rather than be given a name or a funeral service.
Tamblyn's role in Stephanie Daley's double act is largely a thankless one, since her task is to be mostly inscrutable during her interview sessions with Swinton's character, giving the audience no 'in' as to why an otherwise mannered, seemingly thoughtful girl would take such a drastic step to rid herself of a baby instead of seeking out an abortion or carrying and then giving it up for adoption. When Stephanie does speak, she often talks about being judged by God or spouts one-liners so loaded as to make the audience feel that they may be watching a character trying to make a play for an insanity defense -- at one point, she casually references a 'jinx' that hovers over her existence. Are we supposed to view Stephanie as remarkably contemplative for her age or just as a teenager who has seen enough Law & Order to know that she better come up a damn good reason for why she did what she did? That there's no clear answer is dramatically intriguing up to a point, but it's also frustrating.