×

Film Review: ‘Never Here’

A voyeuristic artist finds her own privacy invaded in Camille Thoman's psychological thriller.

Director:
Camille Thoman
With:
Mireille Enos, Sam Shepard, Vincent Piazza, Ana Nogueria, Desmin Burges, Angelica Page, Nina Arianda, Goran Visnjic, David Greenspan.
Release Date:
Oct 20, 2017

Rated R  1 hour 50 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2039412/

Though it drifts off into the ozone at the end, for most of its running time, “Never Here” is a low-key but effective psychological thriller which flirts with that looming issue of the social-media age: privacy, and the invasion thereof. But that theme is only a semi-developed starting point for a narrative that starts like a muted version of “The Eyes of Laura Mars” (i.e. an artist is seemingly stalked by a non-fan of her transgressive work) before gradually turning into a muted “Repulsion,” in which one suspects the real “perp” is the protagonist’s disintegrating sanity.

Starring Mireille Enos in an impressive lead turn, and notable for providing the late Sam Shepard a substantial final role, this first narrative feature for editor and Brit stage thesp turned writer-director Camille Thoman is accomplished enough to suggest it won’t be her last. However, the careful, confident handling doesn’t entirely make up for the fact that this intriguing puzzle ultimately leaves too many pieces missing.

We meet 40-ish successful performance and conceptual artist Miranda Hall (Enos) as she’s being interviewed by a journalist on the day of her new show. Though friendly and open, what she says immediately makes us wonder whether to like, let alone trust her: Her latest “project” evolved from finding a stranger’s cellphone on the street. Rather than returning it, she mined it for all information (save his web history and emails), using GPS records to visit/photograph places he’s been, going behind his back to get intel from friends and family.

The latter seemed to think he’d “love” being the surprise subject of a gallery exhibit. But when finally contacted, Arthur Anderton (veteran playwright David Greenspan) “didn’t love it,” Miranda tersely notes. Well, no wonder: Though she seems oblivious to anything but her own mission, the artiste’s use of “chance” and strangers to form her work could easily be considered a pretentious but still violative form of identity theft.

At the gallery opening that night, the man himself turns up, gloweringly takes it all in, and tells Miranda only, “You’ve done a bad thing,” before walking out — albeit not before telling her dealer and sometime lover Paul Stark (Shepard) he plans to sue. Paul is unconcerned; it’s more publicity that will presumably heighten his client’s profile. But during their assignation later that night (they have an “arrangement” that satisfies mutual sexual needs without encroaching on Paul’s emotional devotion to a seriously ill wife), he witnesses an assault just outside her apartment. As he doesn’t want to “get involved,” she subsequently pretends to have been the witness herself when filing a report. The policeman who arrives to take her account turns out to be Andy (Vincent Piazza), Miranda’s onetime college beau.

Their old flame sparks again, which is a good thing. Less good is a swift escalation of disturbing events. First, the exhibit is vandalized. Assuming this is the aggrieved Mr. Anderton’s revenge, she orders it kept that way, to further reflect her subject’s “truth.” People in Miranda’s orbit suffer harm or suspiciously vanish; one day her dog acts traumatized, amidst repeated signs of disturbance in her apartment. More, her perception of reality seems to separate from what others observe. An obsessive new “project,” documenting her own stalking of a “Mr. S.” who might be stalking her, doesn’t help. Have her art’s ethical problems attracted a psychopath? Or is she simply snapping tether, losing all sense of self in voyeuristic pursuit of others’ identities?

Best known for TV dramas “The Killing” and “The Catch,” Eno handles her role’s layers of ambiguity with intelligent aplomb. The same cannot be said for Thoman’s script, which intrigues for a long time but ultimately goes blurry with too many under-explained characters and events—not to mention a fadeout that feels more like a narrative shrug than either a genuine resolution or a haunting note of mystery.

It mightn’t feel so unsatisfying if for so long the film didn’t present itself as a fairly conventional (if minor-key) thriller, then failed to rev up enough insight or drama when transitioning to interior-psychological terrain. Few things are more compelling than a strong screen representation of a slow slide toward madness. But neither in her writing nor directorial style does Thoman dig in deep enough to make the tactical shift feel sufficiently organic or vivid. That leaves “Never Here” caught a bit awkwardly between genre suspense and something more artily abstract.

Nonetheless, her restraint is elegant and absorbing for a time. Shot in New York City (though any sense of specific locale is avoided), the leisurely but never-dull film has a handsome, increasingly somber look, and other assembly aspects are thoughtfully carried out. Thoman demonstrates a sure hand with a good cast, even if no support players get a fully defined part to play beyond Shepard. He brings his customary mix of gravity and wryness to a decent if unremarkable sendoff appearance.

Film Review: 'Never Here'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Oct. 19, 2017. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 110 MIN.

Production: A Vertical Entertainment release of a Wonderbar Prods., Before the Door presentation, in association with Making Horror, Sun Entertainment Culture, Tunnel. Producers: Julian Cautherley, Bronwyn Cornelius, Elizabeth Yng-Wong, Camille Thoman, Corey Moosa, Radium Cheung. Executive producers: Wenke Thoman, Neal Dodson, Zachary Quinto, Subi Liang, Pang Ho-Cheung, Greg Ainsworth, Erika Hampson, Dan Milne, Alvin Chau, Alex Dong, Luke Daniels, Alan Pao, Brandon K. Hogan. Director, writer: Camille Thoman. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Sebastian Wintero. Editors: Thoman, Robin Hill. Music: James Lavino.

With: Mireille Enos, Sam Shepard, Vincent Piazza, Ana Nogueria, Desmin Burges, Angelica Page, Nina Arianda, Goran Visnjic, David Greenspan.

More Film

  • PLAYA VISTA, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 24:

    Shorts Encourage Women to STEAM Careers

    Straight Up Films created the anthology “Power/On” of five shorts focused on encouraging girls in STEAM (science, technology, engineering and math with the arts thrown in) directed by actresses Rosario Dawson, Julie Bowen, Ana Brenda Contreras, Lisa Edelstein, and Nikki Reed. With support from YouTube, the shorts premiered Wednesday at the Google campus in Playa [...]

  • Stefanie Sherk obit

    Stefanie Sherk, Actress and Wife to Demian Bichir, Dies at 43

    Canadian actress and model Stefanie Sherk died on April 20 of an apparent suicide by drowning. She was 43. The Los Angeles Medical Examiner-Coroner confirmed the ruling and cause of death. Sherk appeared in the TV show “CSI: Cyber” and the movie “Valentine’s Day.” She also starred in the show “The Bridge” alongside her husband [...]

  • Ron HowardBreakthrough Prize, Arrivals, NASA Ames

    Ron Howard Talks New Luciano Pavarotti Documentary

    If one is an anomaly, two are a coincidence and three are a trend, then Ron Howard might strictly become a music documentarian after “Pavarotti” hits theaters. The documentary about the world-famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti comes on the heels of Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” and “Made in America,” a look at [...]

  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead

    Mary Elizabeth Winstead to Star in Netflix Assassin Thriller 'Kate' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mary Elizabeth Winstead is set to star in the Netflix actioner “Kate,” sources tell Variety. “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is helming from a script by Umair Aleem. The story revolves around a female assassin, who, after being poisoned and given less than 24 hours to live, must go on a manhunt through [...]

  • Shannon Hoon

    Blind Melon Frontman's Home Movies Captivate in Tribeca Doc 'All I Can Say'

    For a period of five years, Blind Melon frontman Shannon Hoon diligently chronicled his own life, videotaping himself with a Hi-8 video camera through every step of his musical journey — starting out in Indiana, through his meteoric rise to alt-rock icon, up to the day of his death in 1995. These captivating moments finally [...]

  • 'The Edge of Democracy' Review: A

    Film Review: 'The Edge of Democracy'

    How the hell did we get here? It’s a question that political liberals are asking themselves in many parts of the world, reeling as they are from a global tilt to the right that has yielded the tumultuous Trump presidency, the ceaseless, squabbling chaos of Brexit and, albeit less prominently in international headlines, Brazil’s submission [...]

  • Brie Larson

    Brie Larson on Diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: 'We Gotta Move Faster'

    While Brie Larson is thrilled over the success of the female-led “Captain Marvel,” the actress wants more diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Larson sat down with Variety’s Marc Malkin for the first episode of Variety and iHeartMedia’s new film podcast, “The Big Ticket.” “I’m happy to be on the forefront of the normalization of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content