Glasgow Film Festival: Lucile Hadžihalilović returns with a chilling coming-of-ager
Making something of a splash on the festival circuit last year, the serenely sinister Évolution continues to spread its tentacles far and wide, with its very particular brand of creepy kids, even creepier adults, shabby chic and bewildering goings-on. Awash with astounding visuals (courtesy of cinematographer Manuel Dacosse, a dark-side specialist), this thrillingly mysterious film is the sophomore feature from French director Lucile Hadžihalilović, who directed 2004’s Innocence and is also credited with script assistance on her husband Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void.
It follows a boy called Nicolas (Max Brebant), who encounters a nasty surprise as he swims in the sea at the film’s outset, which prompts him to consider the perversity of his predicament, as he becomes one dangerously curious cat. Ominously fond of the colour red, Nicolas lives in a barely furnished and largely derelict island village whose meagre population consists entirely of enigmatic women and their pre-teen sons, and whose Silent Hill-style hospital would almost certainly fail inspections across the board. The behaviour of his mother (Julie-Marie Parmentier) only adds to the confusion but a young nurse, Stella (Roxane Duran), shows him kindness.
Riffing on puberty, pregnancy, familial alienation and trust, Évolution dabbles in both horror and sci-fi – with apparent influences ranging from The City of the Lost Children, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Under the Skin, to the films of David Cronenberg. As the plot thickens and the fear spreads it’s hard to tear your gaze away, so mesmerisingly beautiful is Hadžihalilović’s never-less-than-chilling creation.
There’s a sense of dread as we’re drawn in, knowing not what we’ll see and experiencing events if not exactly through Nicolas’ eyes then through his increasingly unsettling discoveries. Going soft on score and light on explanation, the film is haunting in its stillness and strangeness. The exact nature of what unfolds is best left to find out for yourself. But do you dare?
Screening on Sat 20 and Sun 21 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2016. Selected release from Fri 6 May.