The Weight Of Choice: Our Review of ‘Never Here’

Posted in Movies, VOD/iTunes/DigitalDownload by - January 09, 2018
The Weight Of Choice: Our Review of ‘Never Here’

Miranda Fall (Mireille Enos) faces the same problems that most people in her field encounter. She’s a conceptual artist with limited choices to inspire her. She can’t conjure original stories since her work is more on the visual side. Her pieces fit more into a gallery than a theatre. She does a lot of self-portraits. One of these is her in black paint which is a project she didn’t think twice about. However, the most important well for her artistic inspiration comes from her encounters with other people. Because using those for her art requires consent, which she doesn’t really ask of her subjects. Imagine being that reckless about those things with people you know. Now think about what she does in the film, which is use strangers for her art.

It’s a miracle that no one calls Miranda out on her unethical practices in the beginning. She even gets an interview with a critic, Margaret Lockwood (Nina Arianda), the latter calling herself a fan of Miranda’s. However, that might change because of another strange encounter. Her dealer/lover Paul Stark (Sam Shepard) sees an assault happen on the street. He’s reluctant to report the incident so she decides to go against his wishes. She also pretends to have witnessed the crime. One of the things she has to do as a star witness is to look at line-ups of possible suspects. She picks the fifth man in the line-up based on Paul’s description. That guy, surprisingly enough, doesn’t get any jail time because of another person’s confession.

What Miranda does afterwards is both baffling yet very much like her. She decides to find the fifth man, who she calls 5 (Goran Visnjic). She follows him, records his every move, and plan an art project around him. Sure, this premise follows a lot of the steps that we’ve seen in films about curious cats like her. However, movies like this are rich for examination. There are things in these kinds of thrillers that never change. They mostly take place in cities where it’s hard to mind one’s own business.  But there are 21st century modifications, like how cameras replace telescopes. It thus makes the activities of Peeping Toms and their Godivas less ephemeral and more permanent. Let’s remember that the gender reversal – a woman peeping on a man – presents an interesting dynamic here.

It’s strange to call what Miranda and 5 have as a relationship. However, her emotional attachment to him is strong as if it was a real one. What happens to her is similar to what happens to nosy neighbours in previous films. In deciding to follow him around she puts herself in harm’s way. The film also contrasts her citizen-led investigation to the official one that the police have started. The police start with routine questions but they end up poking holes in her story. Which they should because she’s an unreliable protagonist. She also begins an affair with one of the detectives on the case (Vincent Piazza). And it is through him that she discovers that the police’s methods are as flawed as hers.

Never Here has a lot of potential thematically but it bogs itself down with its stylistic choices. There’s the atmospheric music that we’ve all heard before in previous experimental neo-noirs. There’s a lot of neon lighting. However, the movie confines those moments in too few scenes, eventually sticking to Miranda’s otherwise mundane life. It’s too reliant on her narration. There are also dream sequences where 5 occasionally breaks into interpretive dance. That’s something most actors shouldn’t have to do. The movie also under-uses what could have been a strong supporting cast. I only see Nina Arianda once a year in films, if I’m lucky. There aren’t enough confrontations between her character and Enos’. It’s also a shame that this is the last film that Sam Shepard did before passing.

The movie hinges on Enos’ performance, which starts out well enough. While explaining Miranda’s first and stupid art project she portrays a pleasant patrician air. Those combination of qualities are hard to find within actresses of her generation. However, as the film progresses we realize that Miranda is an unsympathetic character. What’s more is that she’s in a film that pointlessly uses surrealism as a crutch. Enos has some challenges to pull off a character like Miranda. It’s too bad that she succumbs in the face of them where other actresses can assuredly succeed. Even her hand expressive gestures don’t make sense. The film’s second half shows the supporting cast, as they should, confounded by her character. And I can’t help but feel the same way.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.