With her artfully defined eye shadow, Claire waits for her next client, an out-of-towner in need of a colour touch-up and a trim, a transient connection of understanding and intimacy as Claire washes her hair and hears her confessions, an honesty which is only possible with a stranger. The last appointment of Claire’s working day, the stylist is able to do her best work after dark when her colleagues have left the salon, and once the blood is cleaned up she can go home to enjoy her trophies and reflect on them.
Directed by Jill Gevargizian, The Stylist is an expansion of her 2016 short of the same name, again starring Wolf Mother’s Najarra Townsend as Claire, sipping her almond milk chai latte and making small talk, the practiced hand with a pair of sharp scissors, a lonely beauty queen who sits in her candlelit basement trying on other lives to see if they fit any better than her own.
Ethereal and dreamlike, Claire drifts through her days, reaching out but unable to connect other than in the transactional, an exchange of services for cash; approached by acquaintance Olivia (After Midnight’s Brea Grant) to do her hair for her imminent wedding and invited on a night out with her friends, Claire wants to be accepted into the circle but is kept at a distance, the interactions hesitant and uncomfortable.
Is Claire jealous of what she sees as a normal life, or does she seek the validation of those she regards as happier, more successful, more beautiful, or is she so void that she needs others to lend her identity? Despite being in almost every scene of the film, the unfolding of her escalating psychosis artfully lit and shot yet uncomfortable to watch despite the absorbing visuals, Claire remains an impeccably presented yet deadly enigma.
The apparent reasons for her behaviour insufficient in themselves to justify her actions, The Stylist perhaps worked better as a short film where it would not have time to suffocate in the vacuum of its own making, neither as engaging nor as layered as Fashionista, a similarly themed thriller of female ambition and rivalry and the murderous dedication it takes to be noticed and adored, to stand out from the crowd.
Taking too long to set up the telegraphed finale and apparently set in a city where multiple missing persons in a neighbourhood fail to trigger a police investigation, it is ironic that, more than anything, The Stylist would benefit from a trim, if not a radical crop, frustrating when given a more defined shape there is so much to be admired.
The Stylist will available on Arrow from Monday 1st March