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Always Shine

Always Shine

Two actresses go away for a weekend vacation. Escaping the city and secluded in the forest, tensions rise as they catch up on old times. As they are reconnecting, they discover that their different career trajectories have driven them apart. Contempt and jealousy rise as the breezy reunion transforms into something more sinister.

Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire) and Caitlin Fitzgerald (Masters of Sex) play the two friends Anna and Beth respectively. Immediately we see their introductions in the films are mirrored. The first being in a literal sense through the way each are shown demonstrating great acting chops(both as characters and in the film). The second when taking into context with the opening quote, sets the stage as the two characters portray their feminine identity and how each utilized, or underutilized, in both their personal and professional life.

Director Sophia Takai foils the pair nicely by having Anna (Davis) as a strong and outspoken, almost to the point of being abrasive. Because of this she is having trouble finding work and getting her foot in the door. Beth (Fitzgerald) is a demure more doe-eyed type, which gets her roles but in the types of films she doesn't want to do AKA schlocky horror flicks that require nudity.

Through the trip, we see the jovial masks of the two gradually deteriorate. Once they have run out of pleasantries to cycle through, condescension and derision arise. Takai skillfully uses some crafty editing to compliment the tension, and by the time it reaches a boiling point, a clever narrative device is used to flip the script. It may be confusing for some, even eye roll inducing for others, but for me, it worked if only for Takai’s attention to detail during the first two acts of the film. Save for Davis’s great performance for the remainder of the film, there wasn’t as much excitement going on during this last part. This is a shame because the first acts of the film behaved so well as a commentary on femininity and identity as well as a thriller with so much suspense that at some parts, it felt like a horror film. 

The interplay of the actors immediately had me drawing parallels to Persona and Queen of Earth. Two ladies isolated from everybody bottlenecked into delivering melodramatic performances? Count me in. This film puts an updated feel to the genre and I feel like if the ending was as energetic as its previous acts it would stand out just a tad more. The other modern chamber piece, Queen of Earth and this are worth watching, definitely— but I’m not sure if I would elevate them to be something great. They tackle interesting subjects, albeit, not new, in unique ways that make you think. However, like trajectory each of these films, a quick respite into reflection via a vacation or weekend getaway, can't hold my attention after the trip is over and life resumes.

Always Shine

Director: Sophia Takai

Released: 2016

Mind: 7.5

Eye: 7

Total: 7.25

The Love Witch

The Love Witch

Christine

Christine