It’s not unusual for young, attractive women to want to move away from their small town to find become a model in the big city. And with that, they leave their loved ones and perhaps go on to a better life. However, sometimes things go wrong, and they end up dead.
That’s what happened to Jessie (De Angelis) in Anthony Stabley’s compelling mystery thriller. Told through the eyes (and camera lens) of Jessie’s boyfriend Matt (David), this is a touching and evocatively striking tale of love, ambition, and obsession. The latter is not the usual passionate fixation on a person (although young Matt is clearly madly in love with the strong-willed Jessie), rather a drive to make sense of what happened to her, and to track down and confront her killer after the police fail to make any headway with the investigation and he receives an envelope containing a video tape of Jessie’s final moments.
As part of his filmmaking course, he sets off on an exploratory journey - literally and figuratively - through his relationship with Jessie, and her descent into darker places. Even before she makes the decision to leave, she is asking him to choke and hit her while having sex; something he is reluctant to do, but agrees out of love. When she does leave, he asks her not to let anyone else hit her, as though it was the same as saying don’t make love to anyone else.
Once she leaves and becomes embroiled in the not-so-glamourous modelling world, the company she keeps pulls her further and further away from the man who loves her, and closer to her tragic end. Matt’s solemn journey goes beyond a mere college assignment to a voyage of self-discovery and an attempt to find some sort of closure to the situation.
Drawing the viewer in with haunting, beautifully-shot visuals and a fittingly unnerving score, Stabley’s film is a rare breed; tragically engaging yet knife-edge terrifying and emotionally draining. It’s impeccably acted, particularly by the two leads, and even with the extreme circumstances, the audience can’t help but identify with them. Through the interactions that we see in flashbacks (the pair filmed their outings and closeness, and although we see a lot of this, it’s certainly not a found footage film), and it’s through the non-linear narrative that we experience Jessie’s exchanges with the people she meets in the City of Angels. Naturally, the dream scenario soon turns into a nightmare as the glitz of the profession gives way to the horribly squalid reality. Cult star Pat Healy is suitably sleazy as a photographer and Elisabeth Röhm is superb as Jessie’s damaged mother, but fortunately, having these recognisable faces doesn’t take away from the intimacy the younger cast bring to the telling.
During the scenes in which Stabley uses montages to bring us closer to the story, it has a mesmerising documentary feel, which makes the situation so much more heart-breaking and relatable. Everlasting works perfectly as a love story, thriller and even a cautionary tale, Everlasting is a remarkable film that’s perhaps a little too understated and low budget to be on the mainstream’s radar, but for those able to check it out will be greatly rewarded.
EVERLASTING / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: ANTHONY STABLEY / STARRING: ADAM DAVID, VALENTINA DE ANGELIS, PAT HEALY, ELISABETH RÖHM / RELEASE DATE: TBC (WORLD PREMIERE CRYSTAL PALACE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL NOV 11TH)
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10