It is safe to say that Laura Drake has issues; blindfolding her gentleman caller before allowing him into her bedroom, she is aggressive and demanding and finally drives him away when she turns violent. Her physical needs unsatisfied, her emotional needs are a maelstrom which will tear apart any who venture close.
A cleaner in the company run by her father William with whom she has a strained relationship due to her erratic and unprofessional behaviour, in the upmarket neighbourhood where she is working she meets sixteen year old Eva, a talented musician who plays the piano elegantly and flawlessly yet is deeply lonely.
Eva’s mother unimpressed at her public performance, she seems unable to praise her daughter and ignores her needs, Laura instead becoming the friend and confidante to whom she turns when her mother announces her intention for them to move in with her boyfriend; instead, Laura suggests that Eva run away and take shelter with her.
Written and directed by Carlos and Jason Sanchez, Allure is the debut feature of the former fine art photographers, billed as a thriller yet as stilted as a sequence of frozen tableaux of unlikely situations which occur in a vacuum which where any moral standpoint is ambiguous.
No ethereal montage of seductively lit dancing to whispered dreampop can distract from the fact that Laura has essentially coerced a minor, separated her from her legal guardian, restricted her communication and plied her with alcohol before making the casual invitation to her bed; even if it was with her consent, it was compromised.
With no narrative complexity or urgency, Allure feels like a well-manicured and cultivated stage play, a small number of key characters in a minimal number of enclosed locations, but it exists in an unreal world: Eva cannot fail to know her mother will be concerned, will have called the police to notify them of her missing daughter, yet it doesn’t seem to occur to her until after the fact.
Perhaps Eva has prior knowledge that the police will close the case with only the most superficial investigation after what is apparently only a couple of days (“Our time’s up with the police and their help… she’s just a runaway to them,” her mother states), nor do Laura’s brother or father connect the girl with whom she is now living who is half her age with the missing teenager despite being aware of her hinted-at history of instability.
Westworld‘s Evan Rachel Wood is fearless in her portrayal of Laura, an emotionally manipulative and physically abusive train-wreck who seems incapable of conceiving the consequences of her actions; she constantly needs, whether it is love, intimacy, attention or chilled vodka straight from the fridge, and she desperately needs to be needed.
As Eva, Aftermath‘s Julia Sarah Stone is an enigma, her vulnerability and willingness to accept her subservient position failing to ring true, the obsessive co-dependency which develops between her and Laura unsupported by the script, while True Blood‘s Denis O’Hare is frustratingly underused as William, both he and Wood trying to express the complexity of their relationship without the audience ever being clued into why and when it broke.
The photographic work of the Sanchez brothers having been compared to Gregory Crewdson and David Lynch, like the former they favour settings which emphasise isolation and the division between characters, framing them alone in wide shots or through windows, but rather than allowing the viewer to conceive the underlying drama what they offer is hollow and unconvincing, their interludes of Lynchian weirdness only emphasising how mundane the rest is.