When does lust get out of control? Well, that's what first-time directors Carlos and Jason Sanchez answer in this unsettling and uneasy story about obsession and manipulation. Allure sees a troubled woman with a history of abuse and failed intimate relationships becoming entangled in an obsessive relationship with a young girl who is dealing with her own issues with her imposing mother. All of this leads towards a downward spiral of manipulation, desire and co-dependency.
This film is really the story of an abusive relationship (or technically two); despite the fact that we see Evan Rachel Wood's Laura manipulating, gaslighting and to a large degree emotionally-blackmailing the young, confused and sexually-inexperienced Eva, it's evident that Laura is replaying the traumatic loss of serenity and innocence that she experienced a long time ago. In all her conflicted loneliness and isolation, she's desperate to become the "sugar mamma" to Eva, just like Laura's father was to her who is allowing her both employment and accommodation to amend his own guilt and in order to keep her close to him.
Cleverly shot by cinematographer Sara Mishara who utilises long shots and a subdued colour palette to great effect, the film settles for a somewhat clinical atmosphere and distance for each character. The toxic damage of someone's isolation and desperation consumes them, which results in eschewed moral judgement and each character has some sort of sympathy to them. Even though this film adopts a realistic and grounded approach, the occasional shot of someone falling and sinking into a dark sea of water symbolises the characters' being swallowed, consumed and suffocated by their own emotional darkness.
It should be no surprise for anyone that Evan Rachel Wood is amazing as ever, bringing a real raw and emotional weight to a character who makes questionable actions that are morally wrong, yet we can still understand the isolated plight she's going through. However, the real standout and surprise of the film has to be Julia Sarah Stone, who gives a vulnerable, compassionate, sincere yet fearless and brave performance as the innocent young girl caught in a web of obsession and desire. Her clever use of silent facial expressions brilliantly conveys many different emotions at once, and there's no doubt that Stone is a real talent to watch out for in the near future.
Allure is definitely not your standard, run-of-the-mill erotic thriller that descends into bunny-boiler thrills, deciding to focus more on character and atmosphere. Sure, it's subject matter will no doubt unsettle audiences, some may find it too slow in places, and it certainly won't be for everyone's tastes, but if you want to experience a slow-burn thriller that delves into uncomfortable subject matters with sensational performances, then this may be worth a watch.REVIEW: ALLURE / DIRECTOR: CARLOS SANCHEZ, JASON SANCHEZ / SCREENPLAY: CARLOS SANCHEZ, JASON SANCHEZ / STARRING: EVAN RACHEL WOOD, JONATHAN SHATZKY, MAXIM ROY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW