Allure

 

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Evan Rachel Wood stars in a character study that tackles a taboo with both passion and sensitivity.

   

Allure

Young flames: Julia Sarah Stone and Evan Rachel Wood

  

Not since her breakout role in Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen fifteen years ago, has Evan Rachel Wood given so much of herself to a role. Like Tracy Freeland in the former, Laura Drake is a volcanic presence, somebody prone to extremes. Laura Drake lives on a thin edge between complete self-possession and erratic hysteria. In the intervening years, the actress, Evan Rachel Wood, has made twenty films, married Jamie Bell, become a mother, been nominated for Golden Globes for both Mildred Pierce and Westworld and starred opposite such leading men as Mickey Rourke – in The Wrestler – and Ryan Gosling – in The Ides of March. Here, she is the star of a Canadian film set in Montréal, playing an entirely enigmatic creation poised between two worlds – that of the mundane and another beyond the normal reaches of society.

 

The opening scene is of a sexual nature and is not only frank but, well, kinky. With her hair cropped short and her features worthy of a Hitchcock blonde, Laura Drake is a supremely beautiful woman: cool, confidant and affable. But there are cracks in her visage: she chain-smokes, knocks back way too much liquor and moonlights as a prostitute. During the day she works as a house cleaner for a company run by her father (Denis O'Hare), with whom she shares an ambivalent relationship. So who is Laura, what is she?

 

Marking the directorial debut of the Canadian brothers and photographers Carlos and Jason Sanchez, Allure is a character study that unfolds in a leisurely, intriguing manner, drawing the viewer into its stark narrative mosaic. A story of obsession and domestic dysfunction, the film takes a surprising turn when Laura befriends the 16-year-old daughter of a woman for whom she cleans. Eva (Julia Sarah Stone) has the unformed physique of a ballerina, but is being pushed towards a career as a classical pianist by her cold, domineering mother (Maxim Roy). Inevitably, then, she welcomes the attentions of Laura, who gives her the warmth, friendship and encouragement that she lacks at home. Laura also lures her away from the nest with weed, alcohol and fun trips to the fairground. We, the viewer, can smell a rat and can but watch as another dysfunctional liaison come to pass.

 

The more controversial scenes, while sensitively staged, are nonetheless shocking in this day and age – all the more so considering that Evan Rachel Wood has gone public about her own sexual abuse and bisexuality. For me, the title seems a mistake, suggesting something one might find on one of the seedier channels on TV. The film’s original moniker, A Worthy Companion, is a far more fitting label for a film that has the complexity to peel away the layers of a monster to reveal the beating heart beneath.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Julia Sarah Stone, Denis O'Hare, Maxim Roy, Joe Cobden.

 

Dir Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez, Pro Luc Déry and Kim McCraw, Screenplay Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez, Ph Sara Mishara, Pro Des Emmanuel Frechette, Ed Jesse Riviere and Elisabeth Olga Tremblay, Music Olivier Alary, Costumes Valérie Bélègou.

 

micro_scope-Eureka Entertainment Ltd.

104 mins. Canada. 2017. Rel: 18 May 2018. Cert. 18.