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Nina Forever – Review


Release Date: 14 March 2015 [USA]
Director: Ben Blaine - Chris Blaine
Writer: Ben Blaine - Chris Blaine
Cast: Fiona O'Shaughnessy - Abigail Hardingham - Cian Barry



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Posted September 7, 2015 by

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Nina Forever Review

Nina Forever Review:

This unconventional British ghost story from the Blaine Brothers interweaves themes of love, loss, grief, depression, and morbid fascination to examine the scars we all carry, and the baggage we bring to new relationships.

Holly (Abigail Hardingham) is a nineteen year old trainee paramedic with a penchant for dark and brooding boys. Having been dumped by her last boyfriend, ironically for being too sweet and ‘vanilla’, she develops a fixation on grief-stricken Rob (Cian Berry), a shelf stacker at the supermarket where she works part time. The main attraction for Holly is the fact that Rob has recently tried to off himself in a motorbike smash following the death of his girlfriend, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy). “Imagine be fucked by someone that intense,” Holly encourages her bewildered checkout co-workers.

Rob is living in a sort of purgatory, working a dead-end job instead of completing his maths PhD, and spending every Sunday with Nina’s jovial, devastated parents (David Troughton and Elizabeth Elvin). He starts to fall for Holly after she approaches him in the stock room, tries to convince him she likes the music on his iPod, and offers to share a pomegranate with him – as food known as ‘the fruit of the dead’ to the ancient Greeks. The way in which Holly messily picks apart the red flesh with her fingers is highly symbolic of the blood she will shortly be paddling about in, and the fact that she mistakes it for an ordinary orange underscores her immaturity and inability to truly understand the darkness she is inviting in. It also serves to root events in a kind of oppressive banality at odds with Holly’s romantic notions of death and mourning.

When Holly and Rob attempt to consummate their burgeoning relationship, they find themselves sharing a bed with the naked and bloodied corpse of car-wrecked Nina. She may be dead, but she’s lost none of her acerbic wit, and she has a lot to say on the subject of her boyfriend’s much younger new squeeze. From here on in, Nina Forever charts Holly’s attempts to overcome the challenges posed by this unorthodox love triangle, while Rob struggles to let go of his past despite his desire to move on with his life.

Defying classification and genre conventions, Nina Forever has elements of humour and horror, but at heart it is a film about how humans are shaped by painful experiences. Set in the seemingly endless liminal period between New Year and spring, lingering shots of the cold suburban landscape, washed in whites and greys, recall the aesthetic of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, a key influence according to the brother’s Blaine. They also drew on Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, possibly more in terms of the unrelenting atmosphere of disappointment and world-weariness, and a scene in which Rob and Holly use Nina’s collection of Typeset stamps to doodle on each other as foreplay before the latter makes a violent appearance is, by the Blaines’ own admission cribbed from the 1966 Czech film, Closely Watched Trains.

As the (slightly misleading) movie poster shows, the cast of Nina Forever spend a lot of time in a state of undress (the entire duration, in the case of Nina), but the on-screen sex is not intended as a source of titillation. Holly’s attempts to lure Nina into a gothic and bloody threesome are cut short by the dead woman’s heart-breaking insistence that all she can feel is a piece of glass lodged in the back of her throat. Nina’s constant references to Holly’s youth, her inexperience, her inferiority, are undermined in a tender moment when she touches her young rival’s face and says wistfully, “You’re so warm.” Similarly, the scene in which Holly demands to have sex on Nina’s grave in an attempt to exorcise her could have been fetishistic and crass, but Nina’s berating of Holly and her insistence that “You don’t make happiness – it blooms on anything you don’t scrub too hard” pack an emotional punch which leaves bruises.

Indeed, happiness is depicted as something brittle and transient. We’re led to believe that Nina and Rob had it, but their posthumous arguments hint at relationship trouble prior to Nina’s death, the premature nature of which has imbued her with a kind of sainthood. As a character, she outshines those she’s left behind. In fact, they are all rather defined by mediocrity. Her mother masks her dissatisfaction with life with a tight smile and wishes she could leave her husband, perhaps even wishing she could replace her daughter in Rob’s affections. Her father directs his energies into writing a terrible novel which Dan is periodically forced to read chapters of after the obligatory Sunday roast. Rob himself is rather passive and inert, and Holly is nowhere near as fully-formed or daring as she would like to believe. But Nina, while a tangible and unsettling presence, is, as she keeps reminding everyone, nothing. She is dead. She has no desire, no purpose. She’s merely a memory and a reflection.

Nina Forever

The delusions we have about ourselves are examined in a gut-wrenching scene where, over a rather tense dinner, Rob tells Nina’s parents that he won’t be visiting them anymore. While Rob has been labouring under the impression he has stayed in touch to support them through their grief, it’s revealed that Nina’s affable father thinks he has been doing Rob a favour, inviting him for all those roasts, and that every Sunday visit has been another twist of the knife that is his daughter’s death. And while Holly has been trying to ‘fix’ Rob, patiently changing bloody sheets, whitewashing stained walls, and unceremoniously scrapping all of Nina’s possessions, we come to learn – as does she – that it’s Holly who can’t let go. The titular tattoo she has done to allegedly commemorate and appease her lover’s dead girlfriend is actually the physical manifestation of her own obsession and mental health issues. Rob only manages to leave a surface mark on Holly, inflicted with tools and ink belonging to his deceased lover. Once he begins to heal, Holly loses interest. But Nina is there to stay.

Berry is charming enough though passive as Rob, and conveys sadness and befuddlement wonderfully with those baby blues. Hardingham turns in a solid performance as Holly, whose bravado belies her naiveté and lack of self-identity. But it’s O’Shaughnessy who steals the show as the eponymous, baby-voiced, acid-tongued dead girlfriend. She worked extensively with a choreographer on Nina’s physicality and it shows. She’s broken, twisted, bones audibly grinding as she slithers around the bed, leaving a trail of gore, head lolling on a broken neck, but beautiful too, in a Burton’s Corpse Bride kind of way. It’s O’Shaughnessy who delivers pretty much all of the standout lines of dialogue, and she does so brilliantly.

Nina Forever is ambiguous in many ways, and all the better for it. It can be read as a mediation on grief, the story of a young woman coming to terms with depression, or a supernatural take on the scars we inevitably inflict on one another when we enter into intimate relationships. A strange, quiet, haunting little film which feels fresh and authentic, and acts as a memento mori for our times.


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Katie Young
Katie Young – Author
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One Comment

    Helen Ronald

    Mm.. Am not a fan of the horror genre but I might be persuaded to watch this one- likely to be intriguing yet thought provoking- and possibly funny at times too?

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