Review: Nina FOREVER x (2015)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #671

Number of Views: One
Release Date: March 14, 2015 (SXSW)
Sub-Genre: Black Comedy
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Running Time: 98 minutes
Directors: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
Producer: Cassandra Sigsgaard
Screenplay: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
Special Effects: Dan Martin, Liam Doyle
Cinematography: Oliver Russell
Score: Dan Teper
Editing: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine
Studio: Charlie Productions, Jeva Films
Distributor: Epic Pictures Group
Stars: Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Elizabeth Elvin, David Troughton, Sean Verey, Mandeep Dhillon, Katharine Bennett-Fox

Suggested Audio Jukebox

[1] Liquid Liquid “Optimo”

[2] Pearl And The Beard “You”

[3] The Johnny Keating Sound “What Now My Love”

Three’s a crowd, isn’t that what they say? I mean, a ménage à trois is one thing, but for all our three-way frolics, one party usually comes away feeling like surplus to requirements. Sex is enough of a mindfield when just two participants are involved, let alone when you toss a third into the mix. Feelings are invariably hurt, egos bruised, and relationships compromised unless all three know what they’re getting themselves into and want for the same thing. Even then there are no cast-iron guarantees that it won’t end badly. Yet three is still the magic number we tend to fantasize over. I blame Sesame Street for making it sound so squeaky-clean and enticing. Mercifully, The Blaine Brothers, Ben & Chris, are on hand to test this dynamic out further. That said, I think I want a threesome even more after watching Nina FOREVER x.

The reason for this is predictably three-fold and involves the personnel attached to our trio of main protagonists. Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry and third wheel Fiona O’Shaughnessy are each magnificent in their own unique way and the characters of Fiona, Rob and Nina cover all emotional bases effortlessly thanks to a trio of committed and magnanimous performances. That said, it is still down to The Blaine Brothers to place words in their mouths and capture every unspoken gesture. The pair may not be twins but I’d say their telepathic understanding of one another lent a hand here. Look at The Coen Brothers and tell me there’s not something inexplicable about the way they pool their creative resources. It’s a helluva comparison to make and Nina FOREVER x is not Blood Simple. by a fair old chalk, and neither does it claim to be. But it not so much hints at vision than downright reeks of it and they’ve damn well got my attention, both full and undivided.

So about this love triangle then. Well let’s start with Holly shall we? This softly spoken 19-year-old divides her time between working part-time at the local supermarket and training to become a paramedic. She is unlucky in love, a fact illustrated by the break-up bear she’s currently throttling while being informed that she’s “too vanilla”. There’s no pastime as judgmental as dating and Holly detests being pigeon-holed as bland in such a matter-of-fact manner. You see, here’s far more going on behind these faraway eyes than some gorm-free potential date-rapist could ever dream to glean.

The thing about inner fire is that it flickers brightest with a fellow flame to ignite from, and in co-worker Rob, Holly appears to have found just the kind of inverted slow burn she desires. Still imprisoned in the ongoing process of mourning his dead girlfriend Nina, who was spirited away nine months ago after a road accident, Rob soul is unmistakably lost and bereft of direction. However, Holly can cut through this dense smoke screen with a simple knowing look, not just an acknowledgement of his pain, but a willingness to share each pang. There’s nothing vanilla about either Rob or Holly and it would take someone pretty damn vanilla to point out otherwise. Thus I don’t see nothing wrong with a little bump ‘n grind.

You know those really uncomfortable moments when you need someone, anyone to break the silence? Fret not as our unannounced bonus fuck has this ice-breaker business soundly slathered and is only too happy to talk about the elephant in the room evidently some way past the point of medical attention. If I had to sum Nina up in two words after her grand entrance then “hell raiser” would sum it up in one humongous deep red sheet stain.

“You are a Florence Nightingale job-sharing with Linda Lovelace”

To be fair, she has every right to be a smidge crotchety given that her man is currently up to the tail of his ballsack in the clunge of some barely blossomed Plain Jane nondescript. I mean, it’s not as though she requested this gig and it’s not easy being sardonic with a shard of glass wedged in your gullet and a six-inch stiletto going to waste. Have you ever heard the term “over my dead body” banded about willy-nilly? Well that’s deeply applicable here.

So how does Holly feel about the intrusion then? Last one in, first one out right? She knows better than to compete for Rob’s affections with one placed on such an untouchable pedestal, so opts for a different tack entirely. Sure it’s a shock to her system initially, but this isn’t your average squeamish haemophobe we’re speaking of here. Moreover, she has fallen hard for Rob and knows damn well that the feeling is mutual, thus any friend of his is a friend of hers also. Naïve? Perhaps a little considering Nina possesses neither pulse or the faintest predilection to sharing. Instead the stubborn stiff makes snarky comments every time the pair engage in sexual skirmish and takes every opportunity to remind Holly that, for all her congeniality, she’ll never measure up.

“These things will stay in his head precisely because I am dead. You’re an oil painting that’s still wet. Any good memories you slather out will just get mushed in by what happens next”

Interestingly the dynamic soon begins to shift considerably, and while Rob disposes of yet another bundle of blood-soaked bed linen, it is Holly who is left to confront the specter of his dead beloved. With any vague hopes of a peace treaty blown swiftly and unceremoniously out of the water with each astringent remark, she begins to dig her heels in, “honoring” Nina in the only way she knows how, while simultaneously reminding the competition that she’s in this for the long haul and not about to be made to feel superfluous. 

In all the palava, poor Rob is starting to feel increasingly like the ghost in the portrait. Regular visits to Ninas grief-stricken parents, Dan (David Troughton) and Sally (Elizabeth Elvin), aren’t helping as their trauma is tied into his very existence and isn’t helping him shake the unbearable guilt of having survived her. Of all the lost souls on exhibit, his is perhaps the most tragic, as he is over-encumbered with emotional baggage but all the overhead compartments are full. Barry showcases his character’s misplacement exquisitely.

Lest we not forget Nina (chance would be a fine thing) and O’Shaughnessy plays her with no end of deadpan brilliance. She chides, goads, and taunts her way through every exchange, while still very much earning our sympathy. After all, she didn’t ask for to play third wheel, and has far better things to do with her time than have her clitoris politely strummed when there’s no fucking feeling. A number of her lines are incalculable and the Blaines refrain from filling her rosebuds with throwaway gags to cheapen the experience.

However, the most fascinating subject here is undoubtedly Holly and Hardingham portrays her character’s thankless plight masterfully. Her wide eyes convey every last emotion effortlessly on her behalf and she takes to a tricky role with an extraordinary level of commitment. Every time we suspect that we’ve got Holly all figured out, she reminds us we don’t know squat, and every time it appears that Nina FOREVER x may be about to veer wildly off course, she ensures that things remain tangible. Better yet, with Oliver Russell’s sublime photography blowing us no end of optical kisses, there’s never any danger of a disconnect.

How we choose to translate Nina FOREVER x is entirely dependent on vantage. Does love really die like all living things? Is sex a tonic for death or merely a painful reminder? Do our relationships define us and can we define them? The Blaine Brothers are disinterested in supplying the answers, but develop their characters well enough to leave us with questions. Forget comparisons with Joe Dante’s uninspired crowd pleaser, Burying The Ex, as the two really are worlds apart. This is indie filmmaking at its most considered, unfettered and honest my friends. I could see this tattoo taking off you know.

Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Grue Factor: 2/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Rob and Holly really should think about getting a house maid as the real victim here is the bed linen. However, the real revelation is here is the sex (which is plentiful) as it manages to be fiercely erotic without ever once coming across as cheap or shoehorned in for effect. The reason for this is simple – it feels totally natural. This is what two people in love do when their desire for one another becomes too overwhelming and we feel a part of every last writhing convulsion. 

Read Burying The Ex Appraisal
Read Return of The Living Dead 3 Appraisal
Read Dead Girl Appraisal
Read Thanatomorphose Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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