Nina Forever

Posted by Joel Copling on February 15, 2016

The allegory that populates the modus operandi of "Nina Forever" is a loaded one, but we'll get there in a bit. This is a delightful and, on occasion, marvelously creepy exercise in blending consciousness with hallucination--reality with fantasy. The screenplay by directors Ben and Chris Blaine is surprisingly perceptive about its protagonists: One is a woman whose emotional priorities seem to be a bit off-key, as we notice in a flash-forward opening scene wherein she voices intrigue at the idea of a man killing himself over her death. The other is a man who attempted to do just that about his late girlfriend.

Holly (Abigail Hardingham), the one who confesses to her friends that the idea of a man taking his own life at the point that hers is lost, is a supermarket worker and aspiring paramedic who has just been dumped for being "too vanilla" by her bland-looking boyfriend. Rob (Cian Barry), the man who lost his previous girlfriend to a car accident years before, doesn't seem to be looking for love again, but the two hit it off. Soon enough, they have their own place and a sense of romantic chemistry that seems to be unstoppable. Unfortunately, Nina (Fiona O'Shaughnessy), Rob's dearly departed, bursts out of their bed covers every time they do the deed and intrudes upon Rob's attempt to reconcile a feeling of guilt over the accident.

The rules regarding Nina's inexplicable reappearance in Rob's life are fascinatingly kept close to the chest by the writers/directors. She has a clear, physical footprint, as when blood covers whatever she might sit or lie on. She is also definitely not a living being, as Holly finds out when (in a morbidly funny twist of expectations) she decides to make Nina a part of the intimate relations with Rob and attempts gratification. She is also definitely (?) a supernatural presence, given the fact that her re-entry is quite literally through the bedsheets. O'Shaughnessy's performance aids in the otherworldly (or would that be netherworldly?) element of the character; some of the best makeup and prosthetics in some time are also fundamental to the success of the character's internal gimmick.

A pattern develops that introduces a bit of formula into the proceedings once it is established that Nina will come and go with messy entrance and even messier exit. What isn't expected is how effective each one is at presenting an ultimate sense of exasperation in the characters once the shock has worn off (Even Nina, at one point, voices this). For his part, Barry is solid at capturing both the grief Rob carries with him daily and the shock of a loved one's reappearance in his life at such intimate moments. Rob is a good man who just wants to push her out of his mind to avoid pain; she's insistent that she isn't an "ex" when Holly uses the term. "You're dead," Rob retorts; "Yeah, but at least I kept my standards," says she.

For her part, Hardingham is quite good as Holly, in existential ways the intruder as much as Nina is a physical and supernatural one. It is she onto whom an odd, climactic shift in the central gimmick occurs. It's the one misstep of a finale that otherwise finds the rightly bitter note on which to end a film that is also often bitter in a funny way. The production is modest (Oliver Russell's cinematography takes on the mood and grain of a mumblecore effort, while the Blaine brothers' editing isn't exactly stretching beyond a particularly clever use of montage at multiple points in the narrative), but "Nina Forever" lingers as the messed-up fairy tale its tag line promises (with less censorship) the film to be. As for that allegory, consider the question, "How far can we really escape from our past relationships?" The answer this film provides is perhaps about as not-rosy as one expects.

Film Information

Abigail Hardingham (Holly), Cian Barry (Rob), Fiona O'Shaughnessy (Nina), David Troughton (Dan), Elizabeth Elvin (Sally), Sean Verey (Josh), Javan Hirst (David), Katharine Bennett-Fox (Kelly), Tamar Karabetyan (Cassie).

Directed and written by Ben Blaine and Chris Blaine.

Rated R (sexual content, nudity, bloody images, language).

98 minutes.

Released in select cities on February 12, 2016.