Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Nina Forever: Death Does Not Part Them

Poor Rob is way past “it’s not you, it’s me.” Besides, it really is her. Nina is the one who’s dead, yet he still can’t break up with her. Of course, her ghost is not about to make things easy for him. That puts his new, living, breathing girlfriend in an awkward position in the Blaine Brothers’ Nina Forever (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

After her latest dumping, Holly decides she needs a brooding Byronic type. She thinks her supermarket co-worker Rob will fit the bill—and does he ever. Still broken up over the death of his girlfriend Nina, Rob tries to passively commit suicide through recklessness, only ending up with some cuts and bruises for his efforts. However, life suddenly seems to make sense again when he finally starts dating Holly. Unfortunately, it all turns sour the first time they hit the sheets. Somehow, whenever they start to get physical, it summons the spirit of Nina. She is angry, obstinate, and very bloody. Her arrivals will ruin many a set of sheets.

Despite Nina’s supernatural inconvenience, Holly and Rob are convinced they are in love, so they try to make it work. Holly even suggests a threesome-like arrangement with her spectral rival, but Nina is far too possessive for compromise. Yet, the smitten lovers (the two living ones) will carry on nonetheless, until things really get weird.

Despite all the plasma that comes with Nina’s appearances, Forever is a surprisingly down-to-earth film. Frankly, there is more honesty in this ostensive horror-comedy than the average Noah Baumbach film, especially the scenes involving Nina’s grieving parents, played with acute sensitivity by Elizabeth Elvin and David Troughton. It is an unusually sharply written film that has some genuinely biting surprises in store for viewers.

Abigail Hardingham is spectacularly skittish and twitchy as Holly. It is impossible to envision her in a conventionally healthy relationship, even though we do root for her. In contrast, Fiona O’Shaughnessy makes a wonderfully macabre diva as Nina. While Cian Barry’s Rob is deceptively straightforward, he truly delivers the film’s emotional pop down-the-stretch.

Nina Forever really puts zombie rom-coms like Life After Beth to shame. It has the grit of a more accessible Ken Loach film and the subversive sensibility of Ben Wheatley. (Probably, the closest comparison would be Benson & Morehead’s Spring, but Forever has a darker vibe.) In all honesty, it deserves consideration outside the genre ghetto, but at least we will appreciate it here. Recommended for fans of dark fantasy and grounded supernatural tales, Nina Forever opens this Friday (2/12) at the MGN Five Star Cinema in Los Angeles, just in time for Valentine’s Day.