This Is Horror head of film and television Jason Hicks continues his countdown of the top five films shown at Film Four Frightfest 2015. At number three is British love triangle drama with a twist Nina Forever.
“Nina Forever has so much more to offer than the apparently unending spew of uninspired films that seems to infest modern horror”
Dark, funny, erotic and featuring a dead woman returned from the grave, this feature debut from directors Ben and Chris Blaine is certainly a refreshing and altogether different take on a domestic love triangle story.
Following the loss of his girlfriend Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) when she dies in a vehicle accident, Rob (Cian Barry) finds himself lost in suicidal grief. A year later and the once promising PhD student has dropped out of his studies and now works in a supermarket as he continues to try and recover from his emotional wounds, despite clinging to the past by keeping an ongoing relationship with Nina’s parents.
Meeting Holly (Abigail Hardingham), a trainee paramedic who also works at the supermarket, the pair hit it off and they quickly begin a relationship with each other, but things don’t quite go as planned when on the first time of sleeping together the bloodied, mangled form of Nina appears on the bed with them. Nina tells the startled couple that she is still Rob’s girlfriend as he hadn’t broken up with her before she died, and she seems determined in that the pair should not be together. Holly on the other hand is equally determined that this relationship is going to work.
The sight of a physically broken Nina materialising naked and writhing through a gradually blood-soaked mattress to berate Rob and Holly every time that they try to be intimate is certainly a shocking way of portraying a past that Rob still cannot let go of and indeed must feel some guilt for trying to move on from, but it’s part of the brilliance of Nina Forever that this very human tale of the baggage that we carry into relationships is presented in such a twisted and fantastical way.
Like some perverse, Clive Barker-esque domestic drama, the love triangle plays out as the strangely alluring Nina brilliantly chastises Rob for daring to move on (and with a young supermarket worker no less) and cuttingly goads Holly about her inadequacies, while Rob is torn about what to do and the darkness inherent in Holly drives her to do anything to try and keep her man, including trying to involve Nina in their love-making. It’s dark, comedic, and it must be said, sexually charged stuff for sure, but not without a tenderness that makes you feel for this bizarre ménage à trois of people who are all utterly broken in their own way.
Of course, such out-there material the likes of this simply wouldn’t have worked at all were it not for the conviction and indeed the bravery with which the three leads portray their parts here. Cian Barry certainly puts in a strong turn as the man so trapped in grief that he cannot seem to leave the past behind even when an opportunity of future happiness presents itself, but there can be no doubt that it’s O’Shaughnessy and Hardingham who really steal the show here.
O’Shaughnessy shines as the almost doll-like Nina as she exudes no small amount of pathos despite the biting way in which she treats both Holly and Rob, while a fantastic physical performance from her here too fantastically conveys the damage that Nina’s now dead body had endured in the accident that killed her. Hardingham too will be sure to turn heads with her impressive portrayal of a young woman whose darkness and sexuality begins to blossom as she in some ways tries to prove to herself that her previous boyfriend was wrong when he accused her of being too safe. A mention must also be given here to … as Nina’s father. .., who’s superbly delivered speech explaining to Rob what it has been like to be constantly reminded of his daughter by him is incredibly moving.
Superbly realised by the Blaine brothers, and with substance to back up its brilliant concept, Nina Forever has so much more to offer than the apparently unending spew of uninspired films that seems to infest modern horror and as such it is absolutely deserving of your attention.
Nina Forever is getting a limited cinema run from Friday 9 October at the Vue cinema Shepherds Bush, London.
Director: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
Starring: Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry
Certificate: (UK) 18
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Buy Nina Forever (UK)