Review by Anthony Trevino
Every so often a film comes along that I find hard to categorize. To say Ben and Chris Blaine’s ‘Nina Forever’ is only a horror film is to some degree doing it a disservice. Yes, there are disturbing moments, but there’s so much more to it than mangled bodies, as it accomplishes the feat of being an excellent genre-bender with strong and believable performances.
The film centers on Rob (Cian Barry) and Holly (Abigail Hardingham) who desperately try to have a romantic relationship in spite of the looming ghost of Rob’s dead girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s) that appears whenever the two sleep together. They try everything from throwing away Nina’s possessions, having sex on Nina’s grave, and even going as far as having Holly get the same “Nina Forever” tattoo Rob has as a desperate way of paying tribute. Unfortunately, the greater lengths the characters go to get rid of the ghoulish, but endearing Nina, the further they’re driven from each other. One of the strongest things about this film is its portrayal of sex. In less skilled hands these scenes would be gratuitous and a lot of the nuance would be lost, but in the hands of Chris and Ben Blaine these are some of the more heart-wrenching and honest moments for the characters.
For example, there’s a scene involving a threesome with both the living and the dead that successfully conveys what it’s like to try and be intimate with a new partner, despite still being mentally tethered to your past loved one. And it also brings to light the frustrations one might have when they feel as if they can’t live up to their new boyfriend/girlfriend’s ex. This is just one of many scenes, though, that convey anguish and inadequacy, and it should be noted that a big reason the aforementioned scene works is due to the actors. Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s dark humored Nina provides a great contrast to Abigail Hardingam’s Holly who works hard to remain idealistic and to not be scared away—in short, we’re laughing with Nina, but rooting for Holly to come out on top.
Overall, I loved Nina Forever. Ben and Chris Blaine have created one of the most unique films I’ve seen in a while. It’s a smart, witty way to analyze grief and the content never feels cumbersome or too bleak. Lastly, (minor spoilers ahead) one of the smartest things about it is when we realize that although Nina’s appearances started as Rob’s inability to let go, by the end it’s Holly’s feelings of inadequacy that keeps Nina coming back; that no matter where Holly goes or what she does Nina will be there to remind her that she’ll never be her, not in life and not in death.
For those saying that horror has been overrun by the Hollywood remake machine, I’d say go give this film a shot. It’s proof that original ideas are alive and well. You just need to know where to look.
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