Tuesday, December 8, 2015

ONE EYED GIRL: Nick Matthews' dark and believable film is a cult-ivating experience

A young therapist who perhaps should no longer be practicing his "art" is the protagonist of a new and very much worthwhile Australian movie called ONE EYED GIRL. Our boy Travis, probably in his early 30s, is clearly going through some bad times, having trouble connecting with his patients (or, in at least one case, connecting with her a little too thoroughly). His boss tries to be understanding, but Travis is losing it. One day on a busy subway car, he encounters what appears to be a pretty young girl and handsome older man handing out leaflets and promising help to those in need. He smartly ignores them the first time, but becomes a bit more interested once the second connection is made.

So begins an increasingly dark and unsettling movie about "giving over": why it happens, what it entails, and how lives are finally consumed by some people's desire for power and others' need for protection. As directed by first-time full-length filmmaker Nick Matthews (shown at right) and written by Matthews, with the help of Craig Behenna, who has a co-starring role in the film, One Eyed Girl proves consistently interesting as it appears to veer one way, then another and another until at last we understand it fully. It's about faith and cults, among other things, and even as it draws us in, it pulls no punches.

Travis, played with jittery panache by Mark Leonard Winter (above), is one of those people with a strong desire to help others who probably ought to have found any means except therapy to do so. The girl on the subway whom he follows into "the fold" is played by a striking young actress named Tilda Cobham-Hervey, below, who made an auspicious debut in 52 Tuesdays and here shows that her earlier performance was no fluke. The actress possesses a fine combination of beauty, subtlety and intelligence that should stand her in good stead.

As Father Jay, the cult's charismatic-in-a-low-keyed-manner leader, Steve Le Marquand (below, left) does a superlative job of pulling us in and having us almost believe, maybe hope, that he's the real deal. The actor, as well as the character he plays, keeps us guessing and maybe wishing for something more and better.

This kind of off-balance push-and-pull is indicative of how the entire movie works its spell. Though they deal with themes and situations we've seen many times previous, Matthews and Behenna weave together character and situation with our own expectations and desires in a manner that makes for an increasingly fraught and tension-filled entertainment in which the past is always with us, the present looks iffy and the future, well, bleak.

From Dark Sky Films and running an entirely credible 103 minutes, One Eyed Girl hits the streets today, Tuesday, December 8 -- available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download, for purchase or rental.

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