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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Scott Speer
scr O'Neil Sharma, Andre Case
prd Gabriela Bacher, Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee, Kevin DeWalt, Sean Finegan
with Alexandra Shipp, Nicholas Hamilton, DeRon Horton, Famke Janssen, Ian Tracey, Catherine Haggquist, Zoe Belkin, Eddie Ramos, Patrick Gilmore, Barbara Meier, Aaron Pearl, Dennis Cound
release US 14.Aug.20
This teen romance is so dewey-eyed that it feels downright damp. Even as the story takes some dark turns, the ludicrously beautiful people and places make everything feel so fake that only idealistic pre-teens will fall for it. The actors do what they can to bring characters to life, but the script works overtime to put them into increasingly sappy predicaments that are accompanied by pushy messages and heartwarming sentiment.
After graduating from high school, talented sketch-artist Riley (Shipp) spends the summer with her unlikely biker boyfriend Chris (Hamilton), who's upset that she's moving back east to study law, abandoning both him and her artistic gifts. But a car crash changes everything. Riley blames herself for Chris' death, while he roams the town as a spirit. Fellow teen ghost Jordan (Horton) helps him adjust to this existence, but Chris is determined to communicate with Riley. And indeed, she realises they can connect in their favourite spots. But keeping contact with Chris endangers her health.
The film is shot and edited with skill, and the actors do what they can to bring some spark to their roles. But director Speer takes a simplistic approach, portraying important things like love, grief, guilt and forgiveness in resolutely childish ways. The script does away with the usual wise mentor character for its fantasy mythology, as Riley googles how to contact a spirit. And there's not much more texture to any of the plot's conflicts. So only preteen audiences will find it achingly romantic.
Shipp gives Riley an undercurrent of steely energy that's very likeable, adding a lot more interest than the script gives her. By contrast, Hamilton is never asked to do much more than be skinny and cute, mainly only acting with his big blue eyes. So his broad emotional moments never quite resonate. And Janssen is similarly one-note bitter. Thankfully, Horton adds some fun as the snappy Jordan, and there are nicely unexpected edges to friends who are well-played by Belkin and Ramos.
The tidy plot leaves nothing to chance. It's almost painfully obvious from the start that Riley's artistic talent is more significant than her hard-driven parents admit while they push her to become a lawyer. Bizarrely, the script has the standard romcom structure, which feels deeply contrived within this premise. There are real issues in this story, including a potential to meaningfully explore the intensity of suicidal tendencies. But this film has been prettified to death, as it were.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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