Film reviews

Allure – DVD Review

Allure is one of the latest additions to LGBT cinema, though this entry is disturbing to the extent that it is likely to be locked, hidden away, and completely forgotten about. First-time directors, Carlos and Jason Sanchez, direct Westworld’s Evan Rachel Wood in what is being labelled a “dark psychosexual drama” by distributors Eureka Entertainment.

Allure sets its tone by opening with Laura (Evan Rachel Wood) engaged in a somewhat sleazy and slightly graphic sexual encounter with a stranger. After the encounter falls foul, Laura is then in her workplace – working for her father – and arrives at the house of Nancy (19-2’s Maxim Roy) and her 16-year-old daughter, Eva (The Space Between’s Julia Sarah Stone).

At roughly half the age of Laura, Eva is an exceptionally talented pianist, thus her mother sets a strict regime to follow to maximise potential. Laura is the new cleaner of the house and takes an instant liking to Eva. As Eva grows fed up with her mother’s expectations and intentions, she finds life inspiration from the privately-troubled Laura. Subsequently, out of nowhere, Eva runs away to secretly live with Laura…

The relationship between Laura and Eva jumps back and forth between generic friendship, sisterhood, parental and romantic. When a detective arrives at the workplace of Laura’s father, William (American Horror Story’s Denis O’Hare), to question them both him regarding the disappearance of Eva, the heat is turned up on Laura. Anxious and slightly paranoid, Laura takes her frustration out on Eva with lines such as: “I have done all of this for you.” Laura begins to parallel Eva’s mother, Nancy.

Though parallels to Nancy are many, they are succeeded with much darker displays of power and control in the relationship to the extent of false imprisonment. Despite Laura’s dark turns, Eva continues to love Laura and continue a collage of secretive relationship types. But as Laura and Eva’s relationship takes drastic turns and experiences inconsistencies for Allure’s viewers’ displeasure, a much frightening occurrence and subsequent back-story reveal contextualises Laura’s character for the way she is.

The acting talents of Evan Rachel Wood are phenomenal to the extent that the viewer feels their pain and suffering, despite the obvious immoral activity. Nobody deserves to experience what Laura has experienced; and Evan Rachel Wood portrays the suffering to perfection. To feel infinite sadness for a character, but a sizeable disliking also, is a credit to the acting and directing. That being said, the viewer is placed in a position of distressing confusion of whether to view Laura as, ultimately, a good or bad person.

If Allure was a film of a much higher status, Julia Sarah Stone’s performance as Eva would be held in a seriously high regard. The character of Eva – like Laura – goes through so many different physical and mental emotions, yet Julia Sarah Stone is significantly able to pull these off despite her young age. The transformation of Eva’s character can at times be read as a coming-of-age development, which in a “dark psychosexual drama” is somewhat unusual, but presented magnificently.

From the outside, Allure does have the look of a film likely to feature a high number of sexually explicit scenes – such as Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct and Shame – but that simply is not the case. They occur in very small doses, Allure is not of that nature, therefore it is a likelihood that many viewers will be disappointed if that is what they were hoping for.

The directors intentionally punish their viewers with immoral imagery. One has to question why? A very disturbing aspect of that is Julia Sarah Stones looks a lot younger than the character’s age of 16-years-old, therefore a sickly feeling is established when Laura sexually engages with Eva and vice versa. Furthermore, Eva sometimes looks confused and lifeless, establishing more visual torture for Allure’s viewer.

Unfortunately, Allure places its viewer into a “please end” mood. The first act is ambitious, but come the third act, Allure is almost disastrous. However, some moments are really powerful and, as mentioned, the performances of both Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stones are both phenomenal.

Though an LGBT film, to include Allure within contemporary LGBT cinema is almost an insult to the powerful works of recent years. Allure is comparable to heroin when placed next to the likes of Love, Simon. It is difficult to recommend Allure to anyone with a positive outlook in life or in film, although it is possible that one could identify with either character in Allure for either good or bad reasons. If anything, Allure establishes that there are dark spaces in contemporary LGBT cinema; some of which have to be denied of existence or avoided. Allure is an important film that explores abuse – both mental and physical – and in that respect, Allure cannot be ignored.

Eureka Entertainment release Allure on DVD format today, 9 July 2018

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