FrightFest 2015: Sophie Turner is her own worst enemy in this YA adaptation
It’s the stuff of nightmares. You return home, only to discover that you are already there: a facsimile is duping your loved ones and taking over your life. The existence of a malevolent doppelganger is a universal, enduring fear, and filmmakers across the spectrum, from Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo) to Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Richard Ayoade (The Double) and Denis Villeneuve (Enemy), have mined its potential for thrills.
Now Spanish writer-director Isabel Coixet (My Life Without Me, Learning to Drive) serves up a stylish, if somewhat cold, adaptation of Cathy MacPhail’s YA novel. Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner stars as teen Fay, whose life is turned upside down when her beloved dad (Rhys Ifans) is diagnosed with a serious illness, and she is stalked by a lookalike who seems determined to worm her way into every aspect of Fay's life.
Coixet brings evocative European visual sensibilities to this Wales-shot tale; DP Jean-Claude Larrieu’s off-kilter angles and unsettling framing augmented by a haunting colour palette that underscores the emotional turmoil driving the story. The trouble is, however, that this dream-like aesthetic ambiguity bleeds into the narrative in a way that is initially intriguing, but that becomes increasingly frustrating as the story progresses. Essentially, variations of the same scene play over and over again – Fay sees something strange, no-one believes her – until the rushed denouement unconvincingly tries to pull everything together.
A stilted, exposition-heavy voice-over also feels tacked on, as if Coixet didn’t trust her audience to understand the story; impossible, given the presence of unsubtle signposts like the (well-used) visual motifs of light and dark, smoke (well, fog) and mirrors, and an (overused) narrative subtext involving Fay playing Lady Macbeth in the school production.
The cast are fine: Ifans, Claire Forlani and Jonathan Rhys Meyers do well with the limited screen time they have, even if Forlani’s character – the only other female of note – is reduced to something of a plot-driving cliché. Turner is solid, if perhaps miscast, with beguiling screen presence and the strength to (mostly) avoid succumbing to the teeth-gnashing melodrama of her character’s situation. As an authentic portrayal of feminine adolescence, and a rare example of a genre film told from a strong female perspective, Another Me is worth seeking out, even if it never fully realises its own potential.
Screened on Sat 29 Aug as part of FrightFest 2015 and is out now on Digital HD.