Always Shine (2016)

Always Shine… shines a little on the dim side here.

Best friends, Anna (Mackenzie Davis) and Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald), take a weekend trip to Big Sur, hopeful to re-establish a bond broken by years of competition and jealousy.

Sophia Takal’s sophomore directorial entry, Always Shine, is a powerful slow burner. For two thirds of the film it’s a fantastic tight little psychological thriller, playing out the all too obvious ticking time bomb of this friendship. What begins as an interesting idea, a story driven by obsession and jealousy, ultimately amounts to a lesser inspired generic plot device, but not before Takal can make her statement on women’s role in Hollywood.

Both Davis and FitzGerald are excellent here, but it is Mackenzie Davis who truly shines. Her performance is so fierce here, even a simple hip flexing stretch oozes with intimidation and aggressiveness. Without a doubt the film holds one of the greatest introductions too, Takal plays with the audience’s perspective with a fantastic opening reversal.

The film is peppered with fine art house flourishes, the stylish editing cuts and playful yet tense dialogue really creates a highly stylized atmosphere and although the film isn’t exactly horror per se, these directorial choices create a tense ambience of ultimately a foreboding climax. But, it is here where the narrative begins to lose its creative psychological edge, without speaking too much about the third act, it’s a nasty bit of fun to really see how damaged Anna is, but the switcheroo just feels oddly placed.

Always Shine starts with promise but ultimately the two leading ladies can’t save the film alone with their terrific performances. Unfortunately for me the film is let down, by one very frustrating head scratching line of dialogue, leaving the ending far too ambiguous and open for possible explanations.

6.5 / 10

“Do you ever feel like a whore?” 

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