A predatory, anguished woman is at the heart of a flawed but ambitious thriller, starring Evan Rachel Wood
Cinema’s darkest corners are densely populated with male monsters and vicious bogeymen – some tragically misunderstood, some merely malicious. Allure tries something a little different with its focus on a predatory, anguished female. The jumble of styles sees a psychological thriller on the legacy of abuse dip a tentative toe into less savoury genre waters. It is ambitious and occasionally effective but falters when trying to build a coherent, convincing narrative.
Evan Rachel Wood’s sullen, angry Laura struggles to make emotional connections and is clearly the victim of past trauma. There is a gleaming surface of sweet normality that she presents to the world but beneath lie demons. She works as a cleaner for her father William (Denis O’Hare) and their relationship feels too close for comfort.
At a new client’s house, she meets 16-year-old Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), a gangly, awkward teenager with the wide-eyed innocence of a fawn. As Eva fights with her mother, Laura becomes an increasingly supportive friend. Before long, she is plying the youngster with drink, sharing joints and helping her de-stress with soothing shoulder rubs. A film that builds a sense of mystery eventually lurches into Stephen King territory, with a plot not entirely dissimilar to last year’s Berlin Syndrome.
Highly theatrical in places and sometimes unfolding in a Stygian gloom, Allure works best in the tense scenes between the two women. Wood negotiates some sharp mood swings between caring and controlling, victim and abuser, whilst Stone’s Eva is less fragile than she originally appears. Unfortunately, the more the film explains, the less compelling it becomes and you are never entirely won over by Eva’s reasons for remaining under the spell of her friend. A weak shrug of an ending leaves an interesting film feeling less than satisfying.
Selected release from Fri 18 May.