18 – 98mins – 2015
THE LOVER AFTER ME
“Oh God, not again!” are the first strangulated words out of a bloodied and bent Nina’s (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) plasma-packed mouth after her ghost-white corpse materialises out of the sheets of her former boyfriend Rob’s (Cian Barry) bed, whilst he is mid-coitus with his new girlfriend, Holly (Abigail Hardingham).
And thus the morbid and surreal scene is set for first-time writer-and-director duo Ben and Chris Blaine’s Kickstarter-funded metaphor for love, loss, grief and moving on. In synopsis, Nina Forever reads like a British take on recent Stateside zom-com’s Life After Beth (2014) and Burying The Ex (2015), however the tone here is far darker, more sombre and more explicit.
In fact, the pervading sense of melancholic lethargy which lingers over “sexy, suicidal guy” Rob in the time since the love of his life died in a road accident at just 28, causing him to pack in his promising post Phd career for a brainless, shelf-stacking shop-floor existence, seeps into the very fabric of this washed out, slow moving film, giving many of the tense and awkward early interactions a similar feel to “Sainsbury’s boob film” Cashback (2006).
Neither Rob nor Holly scream hysterically or seem overtly freaked out by the monstrously impossible threesome they find themselves in the middle of. In fact, as Nina continues to reappear like a ghoulish elephant in the bed every time copulation is on the cards, neither has the nous to suggest either telling a single other person, getting professional help or simply moving the action to Holly’s student digs instead!
It’s a daring and hard-hitting visualisation of Rob’s conflicted conscience – he doesn’t want to forget his ex, but how can he move on if she is still such a tangible part of his everyday life? – however, as Rob and Holly’s troubled relationship tries to overcome the weirdness of their situation (at one point Holly starts to futilely masturbate Nina because she “wants to make [her] happy”) with the frequent binning and buying of new sheets every morning, the film does start to feel a little one note.
Even when the sun is out, Nina Forever feels caked in a hard-to-eradicate grime; the characters in desperate need of a good shake. When, finally, Nina’s eggshell-walking father (David Troughton) breaks out of his despair to raise his voice at a numb Rob, I was glad of the variation in volume. Likewise, the eventual revelation that “dark” girl Holly needs someone to fix is welcome progress, but I’m not sure it validated nearly ninety minutes of foreplay.
In a CR@B Shell: A startling and bold debut, perfectly substituting gore as a metaphor for grief, however I can’t help but feel that this sluggish and repetitive meditation would have been far punchier as a short film.