SXSW Film Review – Nina Forever

Nina Forever

Nina Forever

One of the strengths of brothers Ben Blaine and Chris Blaine’s Nina Forever (2015) is how it can’t be classified within any particular genre. It has some gruesome and disturbing elements, but it’s not really a horror film. It has some moments of humor, but it’s not really a comedy. It has characters falling in love and developing relationships, but it’s not really a romance. It exists in this fuzzy gray area where it takes bits and pieces of everything to create something that stands apart. While I walked away somewhat lukewarm over the whole experience, I can’t deny that the writing/directing duo went off the beaten path with this one.

Abigail Hardingham and Cian Barry star as Holly and Rob, two young people adrift in their own lives. Both work minimum wage jobs in a grocery store. Holly is studying to be a paramedic and Rob got a degree in mathematics, but both find themselves in a rut with how things are turning out. They move about their daily routines in a haze. The drab tone is complemented with washed out cinematography by Oliver Russell. There’s plenty of color, but everything looks faded ever so slightly.

Holly grows attached to Rob, who is still trying to get over the death of his girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy). There is hope for love between them, except for one really big problem: every time Holly and Rob attempt to have sex, Nina interrupts them by magically appearing in bed.

Let me clarify that a little bit: Nina appears in bed…as a rotting corpse. Imagine trying to physically express your love with your significant other, only to look over and see a zombified version of your ex curl up next to you. Needless to say, that would kill the mood.

Nina Forever Movie Still 1

So what is Nina? Is she a ghost, a reincarnation, a figment of both Holly and Rob’s imagination? It’s never explained. The Blaine brothers bring her on screen in a slow and creepy fashion. As Holly and Rob do their thing, we see a spot of blood seep through the bed sheets. The spot grows larger and soon becomes a puddle encompassing the entire bed. Nina herself bleeds right through the mattress when she appears. The make up has her look halfway decayed, and barely able to move due to the rigor mortis setting in. And the worst part: when Nina disappears she leaves the bloodstain behind for Holly and Rob to clean up. How rude.

It doesn’t really matter why Nina appears, but what she represents. She is still connected with Rob, which makes it difficult for him to move on with Holly. Things are further complicated when Holly discovers that Rob retains a close relationship with Nina’s parents. The second and third acts involve Holly trying to help Rob forget about his dead girlfriend and focus more on his current, living one.

Structurally, the Blaine brothers (who are also credited as editors) do some interesting things arranging the multiple scenes together. Early on, they incorporate a transitioning style that flips back and forth between segments. It’s a jarring, disjointed approach that messes with our perception of time. We’re not sure if the plot is moving forward, flashing back, or jumping about randomly. This is done with the purpose of keeping us on our toes, particularly with how the story veers off in some very strange tangents.

Nina Forever Movie Still 2

It’s those turns that will either work for you or not. We’re presented with themes involving loss, depression, and the difficulty for people to overcome that pain and strive for something better. But the nuttiness of this love triangle – however unique it is – works as a disadvantage. Too much attention is placed on the unsettling nature of the situation, instead of what it stands for. I thought less about Rob’s depression over a dead girlfriend and more about these people getting into the weirdest threesome in recent move history. Given that Nina pops up during the act of sex creates an odd, exploitative vibe. Holly, Rob, and Nina engaging in sexual activity calls to mind ideas of necrophilia that I don’t really want to explore.

A lot of credit needs to be given to Abigail Hardingham and Fiona O’Shaughnessy. Their performances are nothing less than brave. Both are convincing in their portrayals, jumping in and doing whatever is asked of them. They’re nude much of the time, with O’Shaughnessy having the extra discomfort of also wearing heavy make up. After awhile, I started to feel uncomfortable with how often they shed their clothes. It wasn’t titillating, and didn’t provide much insight into their respective characters. Three and four sex scenes in and I began to wonder if this was all for the shock value. Things hit bottom during a sequence in a graveyard that simply came off in bad taste.

In the end, Nina Forever didn’t totally work for me, but there’s a lot of potential here. I’d admired how Ben and Chris Blaine went for the unusual, and their editing choices show a creativity we need more of. I look forward to seeing what they do next.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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