Eye For Film >> Movies >> Follow Her (2022) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Jess (Dani Barker) is a social media influencer, or at least, she’d like to be. She’s young, thin and blond and she can talk the talk; the problem is that there are thousands of others out there like her. Even her selling point – catering to men’s fetishes, filming the process and presenting it as comedy online – is hardly unique. It’s only when something goes wrong technologically and the face of one of her unwitting co-stars appears unpixellated that she suddenly has a hit on her hands - $31 worth of hit – and finds herself faced with a difficult choice.
This initial scenario isn’t terribly well thought through. If the clip has really been viral for hours at the point when she finds it, it’s far too late for taking the video down to achieve anything meaningful – but given that she doesn’t seem to understand this, her failure to do so, hoping instead to boost her profile further, still tells us something about her character. This is further fleshed out in a scene where she meets her father, who reveals his intention to sell the apartment she’s living in because he has been supporting her for too long and he feels that she needs to learn to stand on her own two feet. “Get a proper job,” he advises her, and that’s where things really begin to go wrong.
There’s an underlying theme of exploitation throughout this film, from those paltry online content earnings to the fact that Jess is willing to take on a supposed writing job for a sum which, after accounting for her time and expenses, doesn’t place much of a value on her skill or ideas, and makes no provision related to the overall value of the project. That’s before one considers the personal risk involved. In other words, it’s pitched just right to draw in someone wide eyed and inexperienced whilst ensuring that if she were more formidable, she’d stay away.
The job involves role playing the heroine of a partially-written film in order to help finish a script. Comparisons to the work of Hitchcock ought to be a massive red flag, not least because of what they say about its creator’s ego, but Jess is desperate, so she not only accepts but lets Tom (Luke Cook) talk her into going back to his remote converted barn home in the woods and lingering there as the sun goes down.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out how things are going to go from here, although Tom takes his time, and power shifts back and forth between the two. Jess places a lot of faith in the power of the internet to watch over her, but Tom is evidently not a beginner at this game and he’s aware of the limitations of that approach. Both characters are well drawn insofar as you’ll have encountered many people just like them if you’ve spent much time online. Tom mocks Jess for her pretensions whilst exhibiting the astonishing lack of self awareness which is de rigueur for such men. It is left up to the actors to give them life beyond this, and though Cook struggles – admittedly in the less developed role – Barker is not bad, giving us glimpses of the real person whom Jess has hidden under layers of marketable persona, just frequently enough to make us care.
Made on a very small budget but getting away with it remarkably well, the film succeeds in challenging some popular assumptions about women who seek to become internet celebrities. Though what it has to say isn’t particularly new, it’s still rare to see it voiced in cinema, and the thriller format may bring it to new audiences. It also makes some very pertinent points about the way women are usually treated in films of this sort and how ,i>boring it is – how we need to get beyond the idea that women are destined for victimhood not just in order to ditch misogynist stereotypes or reflect reality but because we’ve exhausted its narrative potential. It also examines the more mundane but serious issue of how heavily economic power is still skewed towards men, with Jess obliged to prioritise keeping them happy even as she strikes out on her own.
The danger in this film stems from the double edged sword of visibility and the fact that both main characters are quite young. It’s not clear, even at the end, that either really understands how they’re being manipulated. This mutes the film’s dramatic potential a bit but fits in well with its larger themes. Follow her is a slight but enjoyable little thriller which may make a few missteps but has energy to spare.
Follow Her screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022.Reviewed on: 21 Apr 2022