Directed by Ed Gass-Donnelly | Written by Gass-Donnelly and Colin Frizzell | 92 min | Amazon Prime
Jane (Abbie Cornish) is a photographer with a fascination for old, empty houses. Her parents died in mysterious circumstances when she was young, but she can’t remember any of the details. Her marriage to Alan (Diego Klattenhoff) is on the rocks and her kid, Alice (Lola Flanery), is irritatingly precocious. Jane has a car accident, aggravating an old head injury causing serious memory loss. A psychiatrist (an unlikely Justin Long) tries to help while Jane reconnects with a lost uncle (Dermot Mulroney) who gives her the keys to the abandoned family homestead. Meanwhile, someone keeps leaving her gifts, old keepsakes and photographs, and she keeps seeing a little blonde girl who is always looking in the other direction.
Cornish is the kind of performer where you cast her and she immediately elevates the material with an effortless sincerity, but this tale is otherwise pretty half-baked. Jane doubts her perceptions from the get-go, so there’s no need for her to have the car accident except that it gives Long an excuse to show up. “I’m not sure if I’m seeing things, remembering things, or if someone’s messing with my head,” Jane says, in one of the frequent moments where the script makes explicit what should be implied. And would Jane and her family really be inclined to stay overnight in a house where her parents and sister were murdered? The ghost story logic, when it kicks in, doesn’t make much sense.
Gass-Donnelly has some directorial style, and the string-heavy score by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson sets the right kind of uneasy mood, but the mystery behind what’s really happening—seeing, remembering, or supernatural head-messing—eschews a lot of coherence as the film travels a bumpy road from drama to horror.
Lavender opens on Friday, November 4 in Halifax