Movie Review - Neverlake
A beautifully eerie tribute to Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem 'The Sensitive Plant,' - Ricardo Paoletti's Italian feature film, Neverlake, recently had its debut at the 2013 Courmayeur Noir Festival. Set against the backdrop of the The Lake of The Idols in Tuscany, a renowned location for the discoveries of many ancient Etruscan artifacts hidden in it's waters, placed there by the Etruscan people who believed the lake held healing powers. The rich tapestry of the movie is woven with themes of 'The Sensitive Plant' which tells the tale of a plant that rots under pressure. The film tells the story of a young girl named Jenny (Daisy Keeping), who after years of living in New York, travels of to Tuscany to visit her father and his new wife at their home. When she finds herself at The Lake of Idols she meets a young orphan girl who leads her back to the seemingly abandoned orphanage where she lives with several other disabled children. Unable to get any quality time with her father, Jenny begins spending more time with the kids, and continues to find herself back at the lake. But soon the lake is dominating her dreams, and she begins to wonder both about her father's obsession with the idols found in the lake and where he keeps disappearing to. But as secrets begin to unravel, the ugly truth makes its way to the surface.
To say much more about the plot would be a disservice, as the film is full of really pleasant surprises. This is fantasy/horror done extremely subtly and extremely well. I applaud the director for seamlessly blending elements of horror, fantasy, thriller, and a mystery. The backdrop of Tuscany provides for a beautiful landscape that appears wide open and yet feels remote and oppressive, and the cinematography is breathtaking. The bleak and washed-out color palette creates an eerie atmosphere that envelops everything around it, providing a consistency in tone that is severely lacking in many of the other films released so far this year. Paoletti appears to know exactly how to bring Carlo Longo's screenplay to life, and does so with the perfect amount of restraint. The CGI (which I tend to abhor in horror films) is used sparsely and adds to the fantastic elements without distracting from overall tonality.
The acting was top-notch here, falling almost entirely on the shoulders of leading actress Daisy Keeping (Holby City), and the young star carries the weight with the poise of much more seasoned actor. But this was a character driven piece and all of the supporting characters were stellar as well, including the orphans who were all played by relatively inexperienced young actors. But one of the defining 'characters' of the film for this reviewer was Riccardo Amorese's score, which creeps and slinks it's way through the background, waiting for the occasional moment to leap into the foreground, lending itself to a few really nice scares. This film shares a similar aesthetic with other fantasy horror films, like The Orphanage, and it suits the story well.
During the films final act, an orphan named Peter states "Horror is nothing but the truth." And that is a fair assessment of the many secrets that unravel throughout the course of this chilling film. Because when all the pretense has fallen away we're left with nothing but the ugly light of the truth, which is utterly disturbing. I would highly recommend this film to any fans of the fantasy horror genre. In theaters this weekend. Cheers.
- Leo Francis