Never Here (4 stars)

Never Here

Intricate, intelligent mystery from Camille Thoman starring the superb Mireille Enos

Beguiling and thought-provoking, Never Here is notable not just because it marks the final performance of Sam Shepard before his death in 2017. The first narrative feature from performance artist and documentarian Camille Thoman also proves to be a hypnotic study of the increasingly fluid notions of identity and privacy in a world where insidious technology is blurring, if not entirely eroding, traditional social boundaries.

The Killing's Mireille Enos puts in an exceptional performance as New York-based conceptual artist Miranda Fall, whose latest exhibition features images secured from a mobile phone she found on the street, to the aggressive consternation of the phone's owner Arthur (David Greenspan). When Miranda and her married lover Paul (Shepard) witness a woman being assaulted outside her apartment, Miranda develops an obsession with the suspect (Goran Visnjic), infiltrating herself into his life under the guise of preparing a new art project.

Enos's enigmatic, poised performance – her confident countenance never falters, despite her loosening grip on reality – is the centrepiece of this hypnotic thriller, anchoring the film through its more experimental moments. Indeed, while Never Here's subtlety and nuanced genre subversion could have proved frustrating, in Thoman's assured hands it's a compelling, knotty mystery that draws the viewer in – quite literally, at times, by positioning the audience as voyeur, both through Miranda's scopophilic artwork and some intimate, often intrusive framing.

In fact, the evocative cinematography from Sebastian Winterø is another of the film's great strengths, as he paints New York in shadowy, Hitchcockian tones that accentuate the gloomy corners and unlit spaces in which the darker aspects of life can play out, seemingly unseen. James Lavino's dreamlike aural soundscape, with its mix of mellow notes and sharp cracks, adds to the hypnotic tone, and the use of layered dialogue, which often loops back on itself, underscores the sense of unease and shifting perspectives that power this intricate, intelligent piece of filmmaking. It all makes for an accomplished, fascinating debut from a filmmaker to watch.

Selected release from Fri 21 Sep.

Never Here

  • 4 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 50min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Camille Thoman
  • Cast: Mireille Enos, Sam Shepard, Goran Visnjic

Artist Miranda (Enos) and her married lover (Shepard) witness a woman being assaulted, and Miranda develops an obsession with the suspect. Hypnotic and subtle thriller with a poised and enigmatic performance from Enos, and a fascinating debut from a filmmaker to watch.