Nina Forever review: A humble and inspiring piece…
Directors: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
Cast: Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, David Troughton, Elizabeth Elvin
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Synopsis: Robb and Holly are shocked to discover that when they engage in sex, Robb’s deceased girlfriend Nina returns from the grave.
Some films are just plain odd. Nina Forever is one such film, and not just because of its storyline, but also because it uses a genre to explore other genres. Dead girlfriends returning from the dead may usually be ascribed to horror, but here it’s used to focus on drama and romance, as well as exploring themes of grief and moving on. In that respect, this is a unique and intelligent film that should appeal to lovers of the strange and peculiar.
After a failed suicide attempt, supermarket worker Rob (Barry) meets fellow employee Holly (Hardingham), a young woman with a taste for the macabre. The two begin a relationship, but whenever they have sex, Rob’s deceased girlfriend Nina (O’Shaughnessy) returns in a bloody display to ruin the mood. Although quite gruesome, the scenes are never really played for horror, nor are they played for laughs. Certainly some moments are unsettling and others are funny, but it’s mostly rooted in reality.
The idea of a past love returning from the grave is used to fully explore the themes of grief in a fantastical but very relatable way. Rob ends up being confused, while Holly works hard to be accommodating towards this new menage a trois. Nina on the other hand is a pit of sarcasm and jealousy, but as she points out, her and Rob never broke up. Nina is more of a projection of other characters fears and worries, which gives everybody depth and realism.
Not only is there an odd drama at play here, but there’s also a mystery of some sorts. What exactly is causing Nina to return? Is it her jealousy? Rob’s guilt? Holly’s insecurity? Or could it even be Nina’s parents apparent inability to let Rob go, as the last remaining part of their daughter’s life? The events play out sometime after Nina’s death, meaning nothing seems rushed or sudden, and there’s that uncertain part of having let go.
The performances and chemistry are fantastic throughout, each of the actors subtly revealing thoughts and characteristics of their roles. The film may be limited to a few settings, but the emotional branches are complex and multiple enough to expand the film beyond such parameters. Barry is excellent as the confused boyfriend, trying hard to balance life between lost love and current love, while Hardingham is the 19 year old traversing and experimenting through the vast landscape of love. She captures a naiviety, but also strength. Finally, O’Shaughnessy is beautifully sarcastic and dry in her line delivery, while also delivering an impressive physical performance as she is limited in her movements due to a few broken bones.
Nina Forever is an unforgettably smart film of understated intelligence. It doesn’t try to baffle or confuse with longwinded dialogue, nor does it hit your repeatedly over the head with symbolism and arty cinematic trickery. It plays everything straight and is all the better for it. A humble and inspiring piece, it has a lot to say but doesn’t feel the need to shout. A lovely little film…with lots of blood.
Nina Forever review by Luke Ryan Baldock, August 2015.
Nina Forever screened at Frightfest 2015.