Emerging on the scene with a fiercely original first feature, The Blaine Brothers are a filmmaker duo that will surely be among the best indie directors currently working. Dealing with a subject matter that few have the fortitude to tackle, Chris and Ben Blaine present an unflinchingly disturbed film that deals with the death of love and the discovery of new love in the same and just as twisted method. With an incredible directional style and three of the bravest performances I’ve seen in the three lead actors, Nina Forever was a film that dominated my Vancouver International Film Festival and became one of my most talked about films of 2015.
Speaking with Ben and Chris Blaine in an interview earlier this week, I really felt the deepness and connection they felt to the story they were putting on screen, a very human drama that actually helped them get through some grief and mourning. This was instrumental in being a sort of catharsis for the two brothers from Britain and brought a drive to their overall film, a heart that seems to be lacking in a lot of Hollywood productions. The fact that the Blaine Brothers live and die by this project is evident as soon as you begin speaking to them about this project.
What struck me first about this movie is how different it is from anything I’ve ever seen but still keeping in the constraints of being relatable at it’s base level. The story starts out following Holly, a grocery market employee, freshly dumped by her boyfriend for not being interesting enough for him. Holly’s focus is turned to her fellow employee, Rob, a dark and quiet individual who had lost his girlfriend to a car accident and rumors in the workplace has everyone believing that the motorcycle accident, shown in the beginning of the film, was a suicide attempt. Holly develops a little infatuation with Rob, as she works to get closer to him.
After a pretty magnetic connection in the stock room at work, Rob and Holly decide to go out on a date together and start to hit it off. After a couple dates, Holly finds herself at Rob’s apartment, where the two share a bottle of wine, and it eventually leads to the two having sex. This is where the movie takes the oddest turn you could possibly imagine. At the festival, I went into Nina Forever, sight unseen, and at this point I exclaimed loudly “Holy shit!”. Yes, I had no time for eloquence.
In the thick of Rob and Holly going at it, a blood drop appears on Rob’s white sheet and begins to grow into a large pooling. It’s only when it gets deeper and two hands emerge from it that you, as the audience, really feel you’re starting to lose your cinematic mind. Then the car accident trauma ridden body of Rob’s late girlfriend Nina emerges from the bloodstained mattress to try and either join in on her boyfriend’s new conquest or to send said conquest Holly screaming to the hills. Bewildered and unsure of what to do next, the events leave Holly trembling at the foot of the bed and Nina lays naked and bloody, taunting Holly for stealing her boyfriend.
After time to contemplate exactly what happened and trying to make sense of it, Holly decides that her feelings for Rob are too strong to ignore and give up on. This means that she must open up her relationship to accommodate this strange bedfellow from beyond the grave, maybe to figure out what would abate this revenant so Holly could have a real connection with Rob, Nina free. If only it were that simple.
There’s also the interesting character development that show that Rob is only moved past the loss of Nina in his words only, as his actions convey something completely opposite. He still maintains a close relationship with Nina’s family, going for weekly dinners at their place. This includes some soul searching with her mother and reading and giving notes on the glaringly erotic book her father is writing. Though Rob says everything to the contrary, he is deeply imbedded in his former girlfriend’s life, much to Holly’s dismay. Where does she fit in even if they solve the Nina problem?
This movie thrives with the bravely naked performances from the three stars, both literally and figuratively, as Cian Barry (Rob), Fiona O’Shaughnessy (Nina) and Abigail Hardingham (Holly) all give incredibly raw portraits of their characters, sometimes just letting simple movements or glances tell the story. In Hardingham’s case, the recognition made it all the way to the British Independant Film Awards, where she earned the Best Newcomer prize, a well deserved win. Without these durable actors, this film would lack the incredibly human latching on point in an insane and out there story.
All the technical elements are where this film really come together and sets itself apart from other films. The brothers come from an editing background, as well as making shorts together for over fifteen years, really shaping their style of filmmaking in both the picture and sound sense. Whether it’s brilliant smash cuts that will dazzle you or make you laugh out loud or hearing the sounds of emergency crews faintly the first time Nina appears, it all adds to the atmosphere of the film.
Partially made with the help of a Kickstarter of 18,ooo pounds, the Blaines have crafted a debut feature that most filmmakers dream of making. What’s next? I asked them the question myself and am waiting with bated breath to what that will be. For right now the duo focuses on the international release of this new screwed up romance on the perfect timing of a Valentine’s Day weekend. Test the bonds of your own relationship with a screening of it. It will, at least, start some interesting conversation. I love this film and give it a perfect score, five out of five. Also be sure to give my interview with them a listen, too!