Neverlake (2013) **1/2
D: Riccardo Paoletti
C: Daisy Keeping, David Brandon, Joy Tanner, Martin Kashirokov, Anna Dalton
Plot Synopsis: On a trip home to visit her father, Jenny is thrown into a world of mystery, horror and legend when she is called upon by 3000 year old spirits of the Neverlake to help return their lost artifacts.
REVIEW: In Neverlake, we're introduced to the character of Jenny. She's token a break from her studies to visit her father in Italy. However, something about the whole trip seems amiss. And when Jenny comes across an orphanage, filled with sick kids, her vacation takes on whole another layer that is revealed over time.
This is a film that actually takes the time to develop the character of Jenny and what she hopes to get out of her vacation to Italy. We get to see Jenny's initial happiness in getting to see her father for the first in a long time, but then as her father becomes more and more absent, the film paints a vivid portrait of how isolated Jenny feels in her new environment.
Seeking a friend, someone that she can talk to, she stumbles upon a group of orphans at a local orphanage. Jenny's transition to becoming friends with these orphans is credible, because like Jenny herself, they feel isolated as well. From that feeling of isolation, they find something in each other. From there, the film's supernatural elements come into play. Jenny knows something is wrong, but she can't quite put her finger on it. Instead of spilling the beans all at once, the film continues to reveal itself one new layer at a time.
This approach allows us, as an audience, to become more intertwined with what's going on, because the further the film goes along, the more we want to know what's fully going on. Neverlake is also smart in that it doesn't give away the whole story upfront, but they give you just enough that it doesn't become an empty charade in which you're have to wait around for the finale, before the film starts to clue you into the film's plot.
On the performance front, Daisy Keeping, who plays Jenny, is a breath of fresh air. I felt every emotion that her character felt in a very tangible way. She's a fresh new talent worth keeping an eye on. However, the real standout, in this cast, is Joy Tannner. It's hard to talk about her performance without spoiling it, but let me try. In the film, Tanner plays an assistant, to Jenny's father, named Olga. She offers to cook Jenny breakfast and tries to make polite chit chat with Jenny, but Jenny doesn't want any part of it. After all, she's there to see her father, not Olga and she certainly doesn't want to bound with a woman who isn't her mother.
By the time we learn Olga's place in this film, it's quite effective. Her actions in the film are driven, at least in her mindset, by necessity. This is a character that could have easily turned into a caricature, but Tanner makes her character quite human. Her timing and mannerisms, throughout the entire film, are precise and when all the pieces are revealed, that makes her performance all the more effective, because we can see exactly how everything she has done, throughout, makes sense to her character. Daisy Keeping may be the foundation to this film, but Tanner is the icing. It's the type of performance that sneaks up on you and then grabs you unexpectedly.
At 86 minutes, Neverlake never wears out its welcome, but on the other hand, not all of its plot elements are fully developed. As a result of the film's brief running time, a bit too much story gets crammed into the finale. Some of the elements from the finale could have been unveiled layer by layer in the same way that the film demonstrates before arriving at its conclusion.
I guess in this day and age, of modern cinema, certain audiences suffer from attention deficit disorder and, thus, the film trying to cram everything into a 86 minute running time. However, for me personally, I was so drawn into this world, in which the characters inhibit, that I wasn't ready for it to end and in, that regard, the film cuts itself short. This is a film that could have easily gone on for, at least, another 20 minutes. [Not Rated] 86 mins.
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