An Effective Slow Burn ‘Lavender’ Impresses on a Dark Level (Review)
Directed: Ed Gass-Donnelly
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Dermot Mulroney, Justin Long
Lavender takes some time to get moving, and the introductory minutes of the film, in which we meet our primary characters and learn a bit of the major conflict that permeates the film do feel as though they move a tad slower than what might be deemed average, but there’re positives to take away from that slow departure, and those pros come in the fact that the film is very well-shot, the acting is impressive on all fronts and we actually get to really know the characters. Not every film explodes out of the gate to captivate instantly. Some take a little time to ensure they’ve really got you wrapped up in the narrative. Lavender would fall into the latter of those two categories, and in this instance that’s a great thing.
I’m not out to spoil the dread-filled moments of the movie – and there are certainly a few to behold, some of which may turn your stomach, a response to the nature of those chilling moments as opposed to offensive aesthetics – so I can’t get give you much more than you’d get by scanning an imdb synopsis. Jane loses her memory, and with the hopes of patching up the holes, she heads back to her childhood stomping grounds. Will something here trigger her? Better yet, does she want to be triggered? It’s a tense story that while fairly limited in scope, covers its few bases in extremely meticulous fashion.
It’s hard to credit Abbie Cornish enough. She’s passionate and she’s got a perfect aloofness about her that really leads you to believe that this woman may not remember a thing. As revelations unfold, her bewilderment and growing panic are perfect. And she’s got the awesome Dermot Mulroney for some support, and Justin Long even steps in to play a mysterious shrink that eventually proves to be a paramount detail of the mystery at hand. The ensemble is really interesting, and they play off one another in impressive fashion.
The film lacks big Hollywood flare, and truth be told, that’s part of the beauty here. This is a very grounded and gritty production, and grounded, gritty productions that scream of possibility are more often than not the kind of productions we can truly relate to. The mystery element of the tale also keeps the viewer engaged, as we’re all curious about something, and family is often at the heart of that curiosity. That familial angle is exercised here to wondrous effect. Writers Colin Frizzell and Ed Gass-Donnelly (who also directs) do a fine job of toying with those familial emotional strings, and taking familiar tropes and stripping them down into something a bit more primal and slightly less cliché.
Lavender isn’t the kind of picture that’s going to win over those with flimsy attention spans, or some of the younger moviegoers who enjoy seeing an explosion every 30 seconds. This is a film for the thinking movie fan, or the emotional movie fan. This one was designed to keep our wheels spinning upstairs and our hearts slowly sinking into our depths, and it succeeds in doing so, spectacularly.
2017 is still a new year, but Lavender will likely hold firm its place as one of the year’s best, even when we’re counting reindeer and stringing up lights.
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