Love EternalReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 04/18/14 22:31:53
SCREENED AT BOSTON UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL 16: I didn't quite avoid "Love Eternal" when it played at another festival last year, but I certainly didn't have much trouble choosing what was on the other screen whenever the Irish death-fetish film was playing. I'm not saying that was a mistake - I liked the other movies I saw at Fantasia - but I was quite pleasantly surprised at how much I wound up enjoying this one.Maybe "pleasantly" is not quite the right adverb, given the subject matter. This is a movie about a young man who refused to leave his house after finding a classmate hanging from a tree, and responds to his mother's death by trying to commit suicide himself. That attempt is interrupted, but he winds up uncomfortably close to three more suicidal women. Well, maybe three isn't quite an accurate count - one has already died when he "meets" her.
You can see why a person may be put off. The placement of that part of the story is important, though; it's part of Ian's evolution and director Brendan Muldooney recognizes it as such, not particularly mining dark humor from it or building a suspense story out of whether his peculiar houseguest will be missed or discovered. It may not necessarily even be the segment of the film that will make a viewer the most queasy; the cheerful character played by Amanda Ryan whom Ian connects with on a message board that helps connect those who do not wish to leave the world alone, and how their encounter plays out, may be harder for some to wrap their heads around.
Ryan gives a memorable performance, the kind that looks even better as it winds up even if it did seem amusingly out-of-place at first. The two big ones, though, are Robert de Hoog as Ian and Pollyanna Mackintosh as Naomi, a woman whose life and marriage are collapsing. Naomi is the on-screen opposite of Ryan's Teri in many ways, dark and sleek compared to bright and eager, and Mackintosh finds a way to get the uncertainty of her life across: There's some overcompensation and some grim scraping through days, with the overall impression being someone who would consider not getting to the next day a failure, and while that doesn't always sound like the most joyous prospect, Mackintosh doesn't present it as a hollow and miserable one; she makes Naomi more than her sad story.
They are both a contrast to de Hoog's Ian, a very deliberate blank slate who for a variety of reasons never managed to catch on to any point of living. It's a cryptic build to humanity and adulthood, but de Hoog does a fair job of keeping the self-pity of this guy who is able to hide out in an estate and not engage manageable, which makes it much easier to be intrigued by Ian as he eventually starts to figure being a living, active human being out. It's never easy to identify with him, but de Hoog helps make this initially closed-off fellow interesting.
Brendan Muldooney adapted Ian's story from a novel by Kei Oishi, In Love with the Dead, and it's an intriguing transplantation. Suicide has a much different place in Japanese culture than that of western nations, but the Irish affinity for the tragic keeps things from feeling too stretched or out of place (although I suspect that the detailed instructions for getting by that Ian's mother leaves him fits the source material a bit better). Muldooney and cinematographer Tom Comerford make fine use of their Cork location as well; aside from just looking nice on screen as Ireland trends to do, it is varied enough to create a continuum from a suicide forest that may not be literally dark but is stark and diminishes people to a beach open enough to encourage fellowship and connection.The film is meticulously constructed in a lot of ways; it also can be broken down into four ways death can year a family apart and how they try to mitigate it. However one looks at it, "Love Eternal" is better and less creepy or depressing than one might expect from its description. Few are likely to describe it as uplifting, but the hope is not buried very deep, and it is well worth not avoiding.
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