Nina Forever full movie review - A very mature portrayal of pain, loss and trauma using horror elements !!!
'Nina Forever' is a film that is tough to describe in a nutshell and say which genre it belongs to. It is being presented as a horror comedy on many film related websites.
Does it have its horror elements? Yes, it does have a ghostly corpse of a dead ex-girlfriend returning to haunt Rob and Holly whenever they decide to engage in sex. So it does deserve its horror title in a way. Is it funny? Yes, there are a number of laugh out loud moments and lines many of which come from Nina herself. So, the film can be called a loose comedy. Is it a romance as it has a few tender moments between Holly and Rob? Let's leave that question for later. For me, I think at the heart of it, the film is a hardcore drama about the pain of suffering a loss and the difficulty to move on and also the effects that one partner's baggage and the trauma that he/she brings to a relationship has on the other person.
Similar to 'The Babadook', 'Nina Forever' uses some of the elements of the horror genre to explore grief and the struggle to move on after the death of a loved one. Rob's girlfriend Nina had died which made Rob so depressed that he attempted suicide. The film delves deep into how fractured his psyche is. He has to regularly visit Nina's parents to get some support and not collapse again. Holly, a shy girl who works at the same supermarket as Rob gets intrigued by him and they end up dating. The problems arise when the corpse of Nina start appearing whenever Rob and Holly have sex. Why do we not get too many scenes involving Rob and Holly having tender moments with each other except one or two? That is where my problem arises when someone calls this film romantic, because this really isn't. Holly and Rob didn't actually enter this relationship because they admired or liked each other. For Holly, it was an attempt to 'mature' and make herself 'dark'. For Rob, this was a rare occasion where he thought he had found someone who was interested in him and didn't consider him a freak after his suicide attempt. For Rob, in a way, Holly was a way to get over Nina which he actually did manage to do in the end withstanding great difficulty, pain and specially guilt which appeared in the form of Nina whenever he had passionate sex with Holly. From Holly's point of view this is a bit of a disturbing coming of age story.
Holly entered this relationship trying to grit herself up. It is mentioned that she is still young and people view her as this sheltered, 'nice', 'vanilla' kid whose niceness sort of makes her a bit uninteresting. So the situation with Rob gave her the opportunity to indulge in something outside of her comfort zone. It was her way to show that she was a mature adult who was also capable of helping others and not just a sweet youngster. Her interest in being a paramedic is another hint of her desire to become a helper. So it is the darkness in Rob's past that attracted Holly and her desires to help him and not Rob as a person. The only problem is, she underestimated the extent to which Rob was traumatised and unfortunately as Rob got better due to Holly's persistent help, the mental instability rubbed off on her and it was she who couldn't get rid of 'Nina'. Nina became her insecurities, her fears, her paranoia and Nina started haunting her instead of Rob. In the process of helping out Rob, she slowly but surely had lost her own identity and her life started to revolve around ensuring the eradication of all things which is a reminder of Nina from Rob and her life and Nina as a result ironically took over her life. The film ends with a marvellous shot of Holly on her bed now with black bedsheet. She is on one side while the other side is vacant. This is a juxtaposition and a visual call back to an earlier similar shot in the film where Holly has the phone on the other side. The last shot of the film taken in context with the earlier one shows the change that has taken place inside Holly. She tried to stare at the abyss, but unfortunately, the abyss looked back and she couldn't cope with it.
The film is a disturbing indictment of how the personal baggage that one person brings to a relationship can deeply affect the other person negatively and sometimes in a permanent way.
The screenplay is great, but what makes this film really brilliant is the direction and the visual style of the Blaine brothers. The framing of the characters is meticulous. We get various shots of Rob and Holly separated by a barrier, sometimes shots of their feet on either sides of a line. The make up of Nina and the way all the scenes involving her are shot with the shimmering lights to give the illusion of car headlights is brilliant. The directors use very intricate editing very artistically especially jump cuts, sometimes within the same scene like Godard's 'Breathless'. There are also very poignant moments of silence both in the interior as well as exterior scenes that really impressed me. Nature and the surroundings play a role in the film. The film also uses sound brilliantly. The performances are straight all across the board.
'Nina Forever' is a very heartfelt film about grief, trauma and relationship baggage. It uses horror elements to explore very human problems. It might throw a pessimistic light on romance and relationships, but the mature way in which the directors treat the story and the characters, ends up distinguishing this film from the Hollywood comedies with similar plots involving dead girlfriends coming back. Highly recommended.