When I Consume You

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

When I Consume You
"Blackshear pulls off quite a trick by giving us the impression that things are as bad as they can get and then delivering something still more devastating." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Sometimes problems just follow people. Wilson (Evan Dumouchel) and Daphne (Libby Ewing) had a difficult childhood and, despite successfully getting away and finding an apartment together, have never really got a break. He’s remained childlike in some ways. She’s protected him, but doing so has placed her under tremendous strain, and when she finds herself in serious trouble, it’s up to Wilson to toughen up and hope that, under her guidance, he can prevail where she could not.

Shot mostly by night in the Greenpoint neighbourhood of Brooklyn, around empty warehouses and the shadowy environment of the docks, this is a film whose constant atmosphere of threat stems from both the extraordinary and the mundane. Daphne has been struggling to fend off the attentions of a stalker, something perhaps not quite human, but making ends meet is also a struggle, as is fending off the temptation of drink and drugs, and preserving fragile mental health. On the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, these characters inhabit a borderland where nothing is certain or secure – except, perhaps, their feelings for one another. The bond between Wilson and Daphne isn’t an accident of genetics; it’s something that has been tempered by fire and worn by the weather.

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Dumouchel has worked with director Perry Blackshear before (on 2015’s They Look Like People and 2019’s The Siren), and is a natural fit for the role, able to convey a sort of innocence without making us doubt what Wilson is going through. He has good chemistry with Ewing, new to the team, who gives Daphne psychological strength without letting us lose sight of her vulnerability, especially in relation to this particular foe. Blackshear pulls off quite a trick by giving us the impression that things are as bad as they can get and then delivering something still more devastating.

Although the film gradually reveals a clear narrative, we see it so much from Wilson’s viewpoint that, in the early stages, there’s a fair bit of room for doubt, something that draws us into the uncomfortable habit of second-guessing everything that he has to cope with. The fact that a lot of the indoor scenes are shot in small rooms, necessitating a lot of close-ups, adds to the sense of paranoia as nearby spaces and frequently cut off from view. Meanwhile, the film is also operating at a metaphorical level, suggesting the way that people can find themselves stalked by poverty or addiction, requiring constant vigilance in order to stay safe.

Filled as it is with an aching sense of loneliness. When I Consume You, which screened at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival, is a difficult watch in places. It’s also a compelling, mature piece of work which uses its horror elements to explore a much wider-reaching social malaise.

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2021
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When I Consume You packshot
A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.

Director: Perry Blackshear

Writer: Perry Blackshear

Starring: Libby Ewing, Evan Dumouchel, MacLeod Andrews, Margaret Ying Drake, Jeff Musillo

Year: 2021

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US


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