Studio: Epic Pictures Group
Director: Chris Blaine, Ben Blaine
Writer: Chris Blaine, Ben Blaine
Producer: Cassandra Sigsgaard
Stars: Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Elizabeth Elvin, Sean Michael Verey, David Troughton
Holly and Rob’s new romance is complicated by the sudden appearance of Rob’s dead girlfriend Nina whenever they have sex.
19-year-old supermarket clerk Holly has a crush on her coworker Rob. Holly heard Rob attempted suicide after losing his girlfriend Nina to a car crash, and that kind of darkness elevates his appeal tenfold. The first few dates are awkward for any couple, but Holly and Rob’s blossoming romance becomes downright bizarre when a supernatural blood pool stains their sheets with Nina’s spirit in reanimated corpse form. Every time Holly and Rob have sex, Nina inexplicably manifests on the mattress to interrupt intimacy with disapproving dialogue. Holly isn’t sure she can handle this. Rob doesn’t know how to. Now the pair has to navigate their newly minted relationship with the added pressure of an ex-girlfriend’s ghost literally getting between them, and attempting to pull them apart.
That’s the plot of “Nina Forever,” but not its point. Outlining the story is simple. Identifying the meaning behind the movie is more of a challenge.
“Nina Forever” dances across different genres. “Dark romantic fable” fits as a more apropos descriptor than “horror-comedy,” as the emphasis is squarely on drama over terror or tee-hees. Broader labels mark “Nina Forever” as comedic, yet the film features barely a hint of hilarity in spite of its premise, going instead for a somewhat stifling style of artily brooding bleakness. Think Jim Jarmusch, not Jim Carrey.
By no means is “Nina Forever” under any obligation to be overt with the black humor of its “back from the dead” girlfriend theme, like “Life After Beth” or “Burying the Ex.” But the movie paints itself with so many strokes of dreariness that entertainment value sinks like a stone while artistic merit is diluted in an ocean of ambiguous angst.
Naively idolizing his act as a gesture of tragically Shakespearean love, Holly offers Rob’s suicide attempt as her main motivator for finding him attractive. The heart wants what the heart wants, though this is about as misguidedly thin as reasons come for desiring a relationship.
No onscreen ground is covered with Rob and Nina’s pre-death relationship. Our first introduction to Rob greets us with sullen “woe is me” misery as his most upfront trait. Nina is immediately contemptuous and dismissive of the new girl in Rob’s life for reasons seemingly stemming from Holly’s relative youth. Even after Holly becomes accepting of Nina’s presence, Nina’s behavior remains as cold as her corpse. Rob professes his new love and tries moving on, yet Nina has none of it, going so far as to determinedly masturbate her former flame with a furious fist in full view of Holly for maximum cattiness.
In short, Holly chooses boyfriends based on proclivities for self-destruction. Rob is defined solely by Nina’s continued effect on his life. And Nina ignores practical reason in order to be nasty and narcissistic. Whatever anyone in this triangle sees in anyone else is a mystery. So are the reasons why anyone would enjoy identifying with such pessimistic personalities by spending 98 minutes inside their smothering sadness.
Based on these characterizations, it is unsurprising that both romances are passionless. The people involved are choking on ennui and it reflects in the depressing depictions of their unenviable relationships and stunted emotional arcs. The atmosphere of the entire film is just as fatalistically gloomy, with settings steeped in fog and overcast skies mirroring the melancholy in the mood.
An already slow pace is tripped up by unclear cinematic intentions, notably in editing. “Nina Forever” has an uncontrollable urge to tell its tale nonlinearly, but only slightly so. For instance, during the first two times Holly and Rob have sex, the camera alternates between them prone in bed during the act and on their feet undressing just moments before. Whatever is accomplished by that kind of cutting, where a lovemaking montage is interrupted by a sudden return to lifting a shirt five minutes prior, is over my understanding. The movie is insistent about this style too, later juxtaposing Holly’s awkward visit with Nina’s parents against her post-encounter reactions simultaneously. It’s confusing. Not to follow, but to figure out what the filmmakers’ message is.
Performances are earnest, though not enthusiastic, which is a condition mandated by scripting, not a fault of the acting. Production value is high, but the somber cinematic style is erratic without having an edge.
As anti-programming to the tongue-in-cheek charm of something like “Clinger” (review here), where the reanimated lover plot comes with heart and humor as well as horror, the dour tone of “Nina Forever” can be considered successful. Another way to make a metaphor is to say, if you think of the winking wickedness in any aforementioned comparative films like an adrenaline-boosting upper, then “Nina Forever” is a heroin needle ready to poison the spirit with a spiral slide into blackness.
Review Score: 50