Studio: Vertical Entertainment
Director: Camille Thoman
Writer: Camille Thoman
Producer: Julian Cautherley, Bronwyn Cornelius, Elizabeth Yng-Wong, Radium Cheung, Corey Moosa, Camille Thoman
Stars: Mireille Enos, Sam Shepard, Vincent Piazza, Ana Nogueira, David Greenspan, Desmin Borges, Angelica Page, Nina Arianda, Goran Visnjic
Posing as a witness to a crime she did not actually see, an artist becomes obsessed with a mystery causing her to question her own identity.
Installation artist Miranda Fall creates experimental photo projects that explore possible personalities of perfect strangers. Miranda sees the microscope of identity examination turned in her direction however, when her life becomes consumed by an unexpected event that may be more than it seems.
Emotionally shaken after being confronted by the unwilling subject of her latest invasive exhibit, Miranda heads home with her art dealer Paul. A night of passion turns problematic when Paul witnesses a violent assault outside Miranda’s window. Paul isn’t supposed to be there though, so Miranda takes his place with police, pretending to be the key to a crime she did not actually see.
Working with a sketch artist to identify the assailant should be the end of it. Except the detective who interviews Miranda turns out to be a former flame. Two more surprises come when Miranda goes in for a lineup to discover she not only knows the victim, but she may know the attacker as well.
Connecting clues uncovers suspicious circumstances inspiring a new muse for Miranda. Her next project involves stalking the prime suspect, who leads Miranda down a rabbit hole where lines between deception and certainty no longer have definition.
“Never Here” has the descriptive DNA for creating an intriguing psychological thriller. However, the movie’s flavor falls far more in line with arthouse alchemy than with straight cinematic suspense. Think indie character study instead of “Rear Window,” as this is Hitchcock by way of Sofia Coppola or Jim Jarmusch.
That distinction is important because a different understanding leads to disappointment. The mystery in “Never Here” peels back layers on people as opposed to exposing a tangible narrative through twisty reveals. By virtue of predominantly being a mood piece, “Never Here” can leave a pang of dissatisfaction once you arrive at the end of its exploratory journey to discover you haven’t hit a discernible destination with the story itself.
The film’s resolution is ambiguously unconcerned with fulfilling the premise’s promise. “Never Here’s” true interest is in playing with character concepts, unleashing actors to roll around in their roles until they find faces that fit. It’s a tasty prospect for a talented cast anxious to tackle the stagecraft challenge. This enticement is less attractive for viewers who aren’t earning external engagement from these internal conflicts.
With her debut feature, writer/director Camille Thoman takes an exploratory journey of her own. It’s evident Thoman has a vision for effective atmosphere, yet isn’t as consistently confident about how to achieve it.
Curious technical choices come off as confounding in their intentions as much as they come off as creative. The camera curses itself with deliberate oddities such as sudden jerks to reposition or by framing shots with key imagery cut off. A soundtrack composed of a persistent hish-pish of whispers is the most unsettling element, although its insidious suggestiveness overbalances a mellower overall tone.
An aim to be unconventional in its genre amalgamation takes “Never Here” off a clear course. The screenplay seems to possess only 85% of an idea. The missing 15%, meant to be filled in through staging as a collaborative process with the cast, never sees firm substance materialize in that space.
“Never Here” is bold about its ambition to use a frame of cerebral tension for dissecting themes of personal identity and voyeurism. But experimenting with fragmentary fiction takes a paring knife to the movie’s mainstream appeal as a traditional thriller with a satisfying end result. Characterizations aren’t quite charismatic enough to make the difference completely compelling, leaving a lasting impression of unfortunate frustration for a film that has admirable, if uncertainly executed, artistic intentions.
Review Score: 50