This dark, brooding and vaguely-romantic drama drips with sex, sweat, sin and salvation. It stars Remy Bennett (who is also co-writer and co-director with Émilie Richard-Froozan) and Evan Louison as a pair of former childhood friends who reconnect after a girl they grew up with commits suicide. They haven’t seen one another in years, but that doesn’t seem to have affected their closeness, and they jokingly tell others that they are ‘brother and sister’. However their relationship is even more intimate than such a phrase suggests: in fact they’re deeply in love with one another, and a self-imposed barrier precludes them from acting upon this mutual attraction, which is linked to precocious and disturbing childhood sexual experiences. Much of the running time is spent watching the sexual tension between them grow as they drink, smoke and trade looks that betray both jealousy and longing.
The writer-directors develop a very intense mood during this psychosexual slow-burner, with the humidity of the region playing its part, gradually driving the characters into a kind of frenzy. The sets and locations are just as important: surfaces in the Louisiana house owned by Louison’s character Patrick are dirty, the light coming through the open doors and windows is hazy and the southern state in question is depicted as a mix of sleazy dives and fervent religious spaces, with locations veering from strip clubs to rooms and spaces that are overflowing with Christian iconography. There are themes of sin and forgiveness, and like the characters in Rian Johnson’s high school neo-noir Brick everyone here seems to be jaded, broken and battered by life, despite their youth. (There are few glimpses of anyone over 25.)
I liked the acting; it’s not great, but the two main players do well to create palpable tension and make an intriguing, unusual romance believable. I’m less enamoured by the slightly confusing opening act, which is a messy mix of dream sequences, soon-to-be discarded characters and barroom torch singers, though the story does become clearer when Bennett’s wildchild Pernilla travels to Patrick’s house. Those singers appear repeatedly, performing in front of deep red or gold curtains and always accompanied by a lone guitarist; it’s hard not to think of David Lynch during these scenes, though thankfully the influence is only fleeting, and gradually you get a sense of the directors’ own jointly-held voice. That turns out to be quite strong, as it happens: it’s no surprise to find a southern gothic drama that is intense and unsettling, but Bennett and Richard-Froozan’s have certainly created theirs with confidence. This is an atmospheric, well-designed movie.
Directed by: Remy Bennett, Émilie Richard-Froozan.
Written by: Remy Bennett, Émilie Richard-Froozan.
Starring: Remy Bennett, Evan Louison, Pauly Lingerfelt, Mallory June, Monroe Robertson.
Cinematography: Ryan Foregger.
Editing: Vanessa Roworth.
Music: Will Bates.
Running Time: 95 minutes.