REVIEW: Into the Mirror [2019]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: NR | Runtime: 65 minutes | Release Date: June 21st, 2019 (UK)
Studio: Ammo Content
Director(s): Lois Stevenson
Writer(s): Jamie Bacon & Charles Streeter

“You don’t have to be lost forever”

What started as a script for a five-minute short by Jamie Bacon and Charles Streeter soon developed into the sixty-five-minute feature film Into the Mirror after handing it over to visual artist Lois Stevenson. She saw the potential to expand it outwards to become the colorfully nightmarish fantasy that dives headfirst into a rabbit hole of self-identity it has—the trio’s sensibilities merging together to deliver a sensory experience rather than a narrative one. There’s still a linear progression as far as Daniel (Bacon) is concerned, but the journey he takes is one that must be travelled within his own subconscious. It’s there that his desires and fears reveal themselves through disjointed memories of happy times with Mom (Nicole Evans) and aggression from Dad (Carl Russell).

He’s like so many lemmings putting on business attire to sit at a desk and tap his keyboard until his boss (John Sackville‘s Harry) stops by with praise for a job well done to the company’s bottom-line. It’s a world built upon the toxically masculine agenda of assholes that touch who they want and joke beyond the line of decency with an immovable smirk of unearned power that wouldn’t disappear if they were left destitute on the side of the road. This is the life Daniel’s father hoped to prepare him for by suppressing any urge the boy had to be different. It’s the one that often leaves him despondent as his mind wanders from the present to the unconditional love his mother gave before her death.

So Harry smacks his behind and massages his shoulders with the assumption this good-looking guy might be his wingman to salivate over women during happy hour at the bar. Chris (Jack Helsby) supplies warm camaraderie instead—something Daniel latches onto as not only a welcome reprieve from so many others, but also a connection that hits him as much in the heart as the mind. And while Blu (Beatrice May) initially seems like a potential cis-gender love interest, it’s not long before we realize she’s actually the lone soul in that office to understand Daniel’s internal strife. She too puts on a socially conservative face to survive the Harrys of the world, escaping to the non-judgmental paradise of Lost + Found each night to free herself from convention.

It’s at this club where Daniel finds himself embracing that which he had always fought to conceal. After meeting drag queen Jennifer (Streeter) and imbibing enough alcohol to tell Blu about his true self (a conversation he cannot recollect), the fear of everything he’s built crashing down upon him takes hold. Either he doubles down into an even more repressive state or he finds the confidence to throw caution to the wind. The decision forces him to confront his father, accept his past, and reject his present. He must therefore also confront himself beyond the mirror and outside of Lost + Found’s safe haven. That means standing up to London’s Harry and the specter of abuse and ridicule that’s taken his form within Daniel’s mind.

Stevenson leans heavily on color as delineation between fractured selves and a memorable soundtrack from the Chromatics’ Johnny Jewel to really grab hold of our eyes and ears as she takes us through from hellscape of insecurities to inclusive oasis. The discomfort of “reality” shows Daniel as tentative and compliant while the electricity of “fantasy” removes inhibitions to dismantle that façade. He stares at women not in a lecherous way, but with curiosity and jealousy as far as how their make-up and clothing might look on him. He marks Harry as an outcast and Jennifer as a kindred spirit of independence, beauty, and strength. And Blu becomes his bridge between two worlds, the snake tempting him to eat the fruit of knowledge and achieve enlightenment rather than damnation.

Into the Mirror moves fluidly through memory, present self-imprisonment, and future’s promise with a majority of its information shared in the absence between cuts. So much of what’s necessary is thus learned devoid of words—silent montaged images of emotion speaking loud enough to understand exactly what the filmmakers intend. They know that we don’t need to see Daniel’s reunion with his father when the former’s readiness to meet him and the latter’s voicemail of contrition says it all. Why languish in the physical when we can swim inside the psychological? By the end it’s less about the man on the surface letting that which was trapped underneath loose and more about this true self rising up to replace him. We’re witnessing the painful road towards rebirth’s relief.

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