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ROME — The life of a Welsh teenage girl goes from bad to worse in Another Me, and the same could be said of the movie itself, a wannabe adolescent psycho-thriller from Catalan director Isabel Coixet (Map of the Sounds of Tokyo, My Life Without Me).
Based on a novel by Scottish writer Cathy MacPhail, Another Me tells the story of an insecure youth from the Cardiff projects who has to deal with a father with multiple sclerosis, a two-timing mother, a drama teacher played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, a Doppelgänger that might be her understudy (or is it vice versa?) in the school play, as well as misty underpasses, spontaneously cracking windows and a whole lot of other supposedly scary-spooky stuff about which one would want to quote Colin Firth’s character in Love Actually: “It’s mainly scary how bad the writing is.” Justin Bieber‘s lyrics on his G-rated first album are creepier than this stone-cold mess.
What this film’s business was in competition at the recent Rome Film Festival is anyone’s guess (perhaps there’s a Doppelgänger movie out there that’s actually good?). Even the involvement of Game of Thrones starlet Sophie Turner in the lead and an impressive series of name actors in badly conceived supporting roles, including Rhys Ifans, Leonor Watling and Geraldine Chaplin, will make this a difficult sell beyond anything but undiscriminating TV channels looking for English-language filler.
Unconfident teenager Fay (Turner) is somewhat surprisingly offered the role of Lady Macbeth at school. The handsome Drew (Gregg Sulkin, as reliably squeaky-clean as his recurrent roles in Disney Channel-projects suggest) is cast opposite her in the lead, though clearly such a nice, handsome and eccentrically non-threatening guy couldn’t be interested in a wallflower like her? Meanwhile, mean girl Monica (Spanish actress Charlotte Vega) has been cast as Fay’s understudy and has the nasty habit of copying her hairdo — the epitome of all adolescent evil.
At home, things aren’t much better, as Dad (Ifans, the only actual Welshman in the cast) suffers from MS and Mom’s (Forlani) idea of sticking by her man through sickness and health is to have an extramarital affair with someone Fay knows. To top it all off, an eerie old neighbor (Chaplin) sees her going up and down the stairs when Fay knows she’s been taking the elevator and her classmates saw her at school even on the day she was sick and staid at home. Evidently, her life is a mess and something — or someone — is messing with Fay’s head.
Though Coixet has always had a strong visual sense and her regular cinematographer Jean-Claude Larrieu knows how to make things look pretty, there is a clear sense here that Coixet is completely out of her depth in this genre exercise, which is all excessive surfaces and no tension, however hard the music and sound effects try to tell audiences otherwise.
The problems and dilemmas of any one of the members of the large cast could have made a potentially decent Coixet movie — she’s always at her best when uncovering her characters’ psychology, as in The Secret Life of Words and the Philip Roth adaptation Elegy — but the general impression here is that she’s too busy setting up the next red herring and simultaneously keeping all the narrative balls in the air to be able to dig very deep psychologically. The director, who also wrote the screenplay, doesn’t allow herself enough time to develop her protagonist into someone singular and interesting before she starts getting the impression there’s possibly more than one of her, and Turner, though a stunner to look at, is as bland as the character must have been on the page.
Editors Peter Lambert and Elena Ruiz also seem clueless about how different scenes should fit together to create meaning, at one point cross-cutting between a devastating hospital visit of Fay’s parents and a make-out session with Fay at home to no apparent benefit for either storyline other than suggesting that these must have occurred at the same time. Perhaps Coixet is crudely juxtaposing sex and death because that’s what psychothrillers do? Really? If so: Groundbreaking. Also: So what?
The most shocking revelation of the film however, isn’t the identity of Fay’s evil twin at all — revealed through some shockingly convenient contrivances that would even have Robert McKee and the late Syd Field reach for their red markers — but rather the realization that these 90 minutes were an utterly pointless waste of talent both in front and behind of the cameras.
Venue: Rome Film Festival (Competition)
Production companies: Rainy Day Films, Tornasol Films, Fox International Productions
Cast: Sophie Turner, Rhys Ifans, Claire Forlani, Gregg Sulkin, Leonor Watling, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Geraldine Chaplin
Writer-Director: Isabel Coixet, screenplay based on a novel by Cathy MacPhail
Producers: R. Gilbertson, N. Carmen-Dav, M. Besuievsky
Director of photography: Jean-Claude Larrieu
Production designer: Marie Lanna
Music: Michael Price
Editors: Peter Lambert, Elena Ruiz
Sales: Twentieth Century Fox International
No rating, 86 min.
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