Never Here

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Never Here
"This is one of the most interesting entries in the noir cannon for decades."

In 1987, Curtis Hanson's The Bedroom Window posited a scenario in which an attack is witnessed by one half of a pair of illicit lovers and reported by the other half, to keep the affair secret. The film plays out as a neon-stained noir, all courtroom sacrilege and seedy revelations. Never Here takes the same premise and does something very different with it. There is a detective plot here, a traditional mystery of sorts, but more important is the internal, the conflict felt by non-witness Miranda (Mireille Enos) as she faces up to what she's done, what the consequences are, and how these things reposition her in the world.

Miranda is an artist. She works with found objects, things she stumbles across, tracing their histories and making exhibitions out of their stories. Recently she has started working this way with people. The subject of her latest exhibition attends the launch to protest, to say he valued his privacy. After the attack, after the discussions with the police - and the complicating discovery that one of them is a long lost friend - Miranda comes to suspect that she is being watched. Is it the subject of that art project, seeking revenge? Or is it someone who may be still more dangerous.

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Whilst there are twists and turns in the crime story as we watch, there are also twists and turns within Miranda's psyche. Often the heroes of films like this become intrigued by the detective work, but Miranda's history sees this turn into a compulsion, and the man she decides to follow as a result may lead her far out of her depth. Her obsessiveness seems out of control at times; thoughts of personal safety dwindle still faster than her moral certainties. Just as she is uncertain exactly what happened outside the window that night, just as her exhibitions are filtered representations of life, so we become uncertain exactly how much of what we see is real. Is her artist's imagination colouring the film itself.

At the centre of it all, Enos holds out attention but maintains just enough distance to allow for that uncertainty, to let it breathe. Sam Shepard, in his final role, brings a touching vulnerability to the character of the lover, the actual witness, whose reasons for wanting to protect his secret are real and sympathetic, whether or not one agrees with them. Others drift in and out of frams, never really anchoring themselves in Miranda's life. The weight of her name speaks of objectification and of secret knowledge. She is the centre point but there's an emptiness about her; she's unable to stand still and must always be on some new trail, like a killer yearning for fresh blood.

Thoman creates a noirish palette with tones of blood and rust and dirt. A soft, brown smog clings to the air in narrow alleyways where old iron fire escapes cling to ageing stonework. This is a world where nothing is ever quite clear. Deliberate obscurities cluster in the final scenes. Where most films speed up, Never Here slows down, forcing the viewer to face the moral weight of decisions made, of actions taken, and to reckon with the human. This is one of the most interesting entries in the noir cannon for decades. The protagonists are dwarfed by the architecture and by social factors that seem to be beyond their control, yet the decision as to whether to swim against the tide or simply ride with it, waiting to discover what comes next, is one bound up with guilt.

Reviewed on: 18 Oct 2017
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Never Here packshot
Disturbing events lead an artist who photographs strangers to suspect that someone out there is watching her.

Director: Camille Thoman

Writer: Camille Thoman

Starring: Mireille Enos, Sam Shepard, Goran Visnjic, Vincent Piazza

Year: 2017

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: US

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