Adrian Brody and Robin McLeavy in Backtrack
"Brody invests his character with much more depth than is there on the page."

I'll admit that when I first heard this was a film about a psychiatrist who discovers his patients are ghosts, my first thought was Do they pay? It sounds like a difficult concept to sustain in any intelligent way, but of course, it's only the gateway to the real story here. It may only be Michael Petroni's second film as a director, but it has a few tricks up its sleeve, and it also has Adrien Brody.

Brody, shifting his accent as subtly as he shifts from action to intellectual mode (his previous film was Roman would-be-epic Dragon Blade), is the aforementioned psychiatrist, Peter, determined to help others but also troubled himself following the death of his daughter. With a drugged-up wife who is barely able to communicate, he's looking for someone to talk to, or just talking to himself. That's where things get complicated. Although it's presented as a ghost story and is fairly run of the mill in many ways, we can never be completely certain that the ghosts are more than an expression of his buried memories. He's haunted in more than one sense. As a psychiatrist, he's also aware on some level that it probably doesn't matter - what he needs to do to resolve the situation is the same either way.

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Evolving into a mystery that hinges on Peter's amnesia about something that happened in his teens, Backtrack wisely keeps the ghostly action to a minimum, but there's plenty here to satisfy fans of the genre. The weakest part of the film is the dialogue, which is painfully clumsy in places, but the cast deliver it with sincerity regardless. Brody invests his character with much more depth than is there on the page and is ably supported by George Shevtsov as Peter's retired police officer father. There's also a strong performance from Robin McLeavy as a young police lieutenant, which makes up somewhat for the film's tendency to sideline its female characters whilst using them as drivers for the plot.

There's some crisp sound work and nice set dressing here, the latter providing humorous moments when Peter returns to his father's home and stays in his old room. The special effects are simple but adequate; we could probably do without those accompanying the jump scares. Overall the plot is just a shade too predictable but the acting keeps the film watchable as it builds to its dramatic conclusion.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2016
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Backtrack packshot
A psychotherapist discovers a horrifying secret about his patients that leads him on a journey to confront his past.
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Festivals:

Tribeca 2015

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