Like Todd Haynes'”Safe,” Suzanne Myers’ promising directorial debut “Alchemy” chronicles the emotional crisis andinner journey of a young woman as she pieces together her life — and her art. Embodying a distinct feminist perspective underlined by the fact that most contributors — in front of and behind the cameras — are women, this intermittently absorbing drama deserves a theatrical shot, although the reception of the more accomplished “Safe” suggests the film is likely to be embraced by a small, female-dominated audience.
An enchanting sense of life’s small wonders, as they reveal themselves in the most routine daily experiences, hovers over these three interrelated stories, which chart the odyssey of Louisa Garrison (Rya Kihlsted) as she experiences the phases of a broken heart, an alchemist’s cure and, finally, falling in love again.
In “Charity”– the first and best segment — Louisa, a translator of fairy tales who works in a bookstore, grows suspicious that her handsome lover Ethan (D.V. de Vincentis) is still smitten with former g.f. Kitty (Erica Chanoy).
He denies it, but Louisa decides to break up with Ethan anyway. Months later, while tracking Kitty, she finds out Ethan has been killed in an accident. What begins as providing a sympathetic shoulder for Kitty, grows into a bizarre, asymmetrical friendship, as Kitty doesn’t know about Louisa’s link to Ethan.
“Faith” details Louisa’s visit to her older sister Jane (Marian Quinn), who has been diagnosed with cancer. Shocked to discover that Jane lives with another woman, she also realizes her sister is warmly affectionate with everyone but her.
Story reaches its more optimistic resolution in “Hope,” when Louisa — like the heroine in “Safe”– relocates to an isolated colony of artists where she develops a relationship with a former co-worker, Duncan (Jeff Webster).
One can respect Myers’ ambition to construct a nonlinear narrative, but her strategy doesn’t always pay off. Hence, Louisa’s most intriguing relationships, with Kitty and Jane, are dropped as soon as the segments in which they are contained are over.
And while the first sequence is taut and captivating, the film becomes progressively dull and pretentious, particularly in the ponderous final sequence.
Myers, however, deserves points for observing Louisa as she goes through the motions of defeat and isolation without resorting to overt melodramatic manipulation.
Kihlsted excels as a tense, highly cerebral woman whose main goal is to regain control over her life.
Tami Reiker, who shot “The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love,” shows improvement in her lensing, though pic’s look and production design are too self-conscious.