Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Perez convinces in the role and we can believe that his feelings are sincere even if they're unsophisticated."

In the US, around 137 people fall victim to serial killers each year. The extensive news coverage these cases get makes it seem like more, and a similar number are murdered by fictional serial killers in film and television. Matt (Adam Perez) doesn't want his girlfriend Jessie (Valentina de Angelis) to vanish among those numbers and be forgotten, so he uses his filmmaking class as an opportunity to tell her story.

This is one of those films that wants to play around with found footage but never quite commits to it, which adds to the atmosphere in some scenes because it creates the impression of an unseen third person observing intimate moments between the young couple. Matt shares old clips of the two of them fooling around together in their bedrooms or on a trip out into the wilderness, ostensibly trying to tell us who Jessie is, though we never get very far beneath the surface. Approximately one in every 25 films released each year follows a male protagonist whose journey is inspired by a woman's suffering or death (there are vanishingly few the other way round) and this is another of them, so we learn a lot about what Jessie looked like in skimpy clothing and how she was sad and mysterious but practically nothing about her interests, values or personality.

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This is a little more forgiveable than in most such stories because Matt is a teenager only just learning to look beneath the surface of the world around him. Perez convinces in the role and we can believe that his feelings are sincere even if they're unsophisticated, though in the circumstances it would have been nice to see more of an emotional character arc - one doesn't really get the sense that he's changed by his experiences. Perhaps this is because he's a goth to begin with - Jessie likewise, which seems to be why she catches the eye of a Los Angeles fashion scout and is persuaded to model. This requires a bit of suspension of disbelief because there are thousands of young goths out there with similar looks and no shortage of photographers trying to make a living off them, and there's nothing special about the pictures that supposedly make her a success, but perhaps that's the point because the story is a familiar one, the success transitory. Los Angeles does what it does to any number of ambitious but naive young things.

Post-Weinstein it's difficult to make much impression with a story like this. Director Anthony Stabley wisely resists going all out for shock value and lets de Angelis keep her clothes on. Matt proves himself a good, modern boyfriend by standing by her and not disapproving of her modelling work, though he finds it hard to deal with her being far away whilst he's stuck in Colorado. There's a sub-plot around her masochistic and submissive inclinations, which make him deeply uncomfortable. There's a potentially interesting narrative here around her need to respect his limits but it isn't explored very deeply. Instead there's a differently uncomfortable suggestion that her sexuality is a sign of mental ill-health and somehow contributes to her becoming a murder victim.

The rest of the film focuses on Matt trying to solve the murder mystery and detours into a short essay about how many US serial killers are released from prison only to kill again - the most effectively chilling part of the film. Here Matt's naivety comes into play again because despite what he's learned (and partly because of his lack of faith in the justice system) he decides to confront the killer by himself. The way he's positioned as telling his story after the fact means there can only be so much tension here but of course there's more at stake than just his life. Will he end up just as troubled as Jessie was?

Aside from some reflections on bad parenting, that's about it. Both young leads are likeable and the soundtrack brings us further into their emotional landscape. Teenagers may well find it romantically appealing and efforts to remind viewers that murder involves the destruction of actual human beings are always commendable, but Everlasting is a deeply conventional film despite its alternative trappings and it never really succeeds in finding a distinctive voice.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2019
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Everlasting packshot
A teenager goes looking for the man who killed his girlfriend.

Director: Anthony Stabley

Writer: Anthony Stabley

Starring: Adam Perez, Valentina de Angelis, Elisabeth Röhm, Robert LaSardo, Bai Ling, Michael Massee

Year: 2016

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US


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