The Blaine brothers' first offering is a strange and truly demented little gem, both moving and darkly hilarious.
Having worked as editors on award-winning BBC shows like Bad Education, whilst simultaneously juggling their own cinematic dreams, Chris and Ben Blaine finally unleash their first feature film to the wider-world this year, after cruising around festivals for most of 2015. And as far as debuts go, this one is rather special.
Labelled by the brothers as something of a “fucked up fairytale”, Nina Forever follows the relationship struggles of student Holly (Abigail Hardingham), who begins seeing coworker Rob (Cian Barry), only to find that he’s hiding a worrying and potentially deadly secret. Whenever the two become intimate, the bloodied corpse of his dead ex-girlfriend Nina (Utopia’s Fiona O’Shaughnessy) rises from the grave, physically mangled from the car wreck that killed her, but still harbouring her intense love for Rob. Faced with a bizarre dilemma, the couple must decide whether to try and rid themselves of Nina’s wandering spirit, or attempt to incorporate her into their blossoming relationship.
Calling Nina Forever ‘a bit weird’ doesn’t quite cut it. Few first-time directors would have the confidence to tackle something that crosses so many different genres and has such an unnervingly schizophrenic tone; and yet the Blaine brothers seem to manage it without any due fuss at all. The constant shifts from buckets of blood, to graphic sex to oddly deep and meaningful chatter about the process of death and moving on, never once feeling jarring, sliding into one another with all the grace and panache of something far more straight-forward.
A large part of what helps sell Nina Forever’s positively mental little world though is its cast. Fiona O’Shaughnessy’s often unsettling, yet wickedly funny, undead Nina is an expected delight. Fans of Channel 4’s Utopia will be at home with her unusual style, which works terrifically in such a unusual context. The real star here however is first-timer Abigail Hardingham, who brings not only her own sense of fearlessness to the role, but also a welcome dose of curiosity. Her Holly is a difficult character to sell: a volatile young woman with many hidden unworldly sexual desires bubbling below the surface; someone who is willing to engage in threesomes with an undead corpse, and yet she manages it almost flawlessly.
At times the Blaines’ truly “fucked up” little tale may prove a little hard to handle for some. As you can probably tell, this is not your average romance, nor your average horror, and the genre mishmash will no doubt not sit right with everyone. Occasionally the brothers lean too far one way and the film can feel a little too soppy or dramatic, but these are usually passing moments which thankfully don’t hang around for too long.
These smaller issues don’t stop Nina Forever from being a genuinely entertaining and viciously funny little British treat however. What the Blaine brothers have done here is strange, twisted but undoubtedly original; it’s a film that won’t excite everyone, but the smaller groups that it does will find something special hidden amongst the bloody sheets and dark reveals.
Nina Forever (2015), directed by Chris & Ben Blaine, is distributed in the UK by StudioCanal. Certificate 18.