Written by: Daniel Hadley
Directed by: Joseph Sims-Dennet
Cast: Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Brendan Cowell
Observance is a movie that plays out like a puzzle, leaving the viewer to piece its plot together slowly over the course of its pretty brief run time of 90 – that’s generous – minutes. But unfortunately once all of the pieces are assembled it doesn’t add up to too much. Boasting some striking visuals and a good central performance, Observance had a lot going for it, but as the credits began to roll I was left very underwhelmed.
The setup is as follows: a private investigator of sorts is tasked to spy on a young woman from an old abandoned building opposite from her apartment. Having no idea why or how long it will take he is initially happy for the work as he is paying off his young daughter’s hospital bills. Unfortunately, she’s passed away and we know who that financial burden then falls on. But as time passes strange things begin occurring in and around his abandoned hideout. There are some vague supernatural elements at play here, but they are very light and quite few and far between. The story is initially intriguing and held my attention, but after the third trippy yet beautifully shot dream sequence that didn’t really lead anywhere, my attention began to waver.
The plot is basically drip fed to the audience. Every now and then there is a larger trickle, but the audience is left somewhat starved for narrative. It’s easy enough to put all the pieces together, but if the filmmakers had been less pretentious in their attempts to deliver an intriguing mystery, this could have been something. But alas it’s not much more than a beautifully shot yet incredibly dull movie that can’t quite decide whether it wants to be an arthouse piece or just a standard horror thriller. So what we get is a mixture of both but the concoction is neither horrific nor thrilling.
From a technical standpoint the movie is fantastic, and there is some real talent behind the camera. As I have mentioned, some of the sequences are beautiful and the performances are also great, but without a great story to thread these through, the film ends up feeling kind of hollow. Having said all that, there is a surprise appearance from Wolf Creek’s John Jarret which was a bright spot. Although it is very brief it’s always nice to see him pop up.
Observance is a movie that appears to be grasping for something far greater than the sum of parts, and that greatness is just a little out of reach.