Film Review: Allure

Bad love comes in several varieties in this thriller about a woman whose relationship with a teenager has dire consequences.
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Laura Drake (Evan Rachel Wood) works as a housecleaner for her father's (Denis O'Hare) company, drinks and tokes too much and recklessly picks up men for liaisons in cheap motels. That she's deeply unhappy is as obvious as her withering disdain for the idea of seeking help: She's going to hell on her own terms and heaven help anyone who tries to get in her way.

And she isn't done finding new roads. Enter Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), the 16-year-old daughter of a controlling single mother (Maxim Roy) whose dedication to tough love has them at loggerheads. Eva is a talented classical pianist, but she has reached an age at which even reasonable parenting feels like a choke chain—the last straw is that her mother is about to remarry and Eva doesn't like her stepfather-to-be, doesn't want to move and just wants to get away from her comfortably stifling life. Eva and Laura bond over music and mutual neediness untempered by common sense; they decide to run away together, a plan fraught with disastrous potential on both sides—but more so for Laura, the nominal adult in the equation.

Written and directed by Canadian brothers Carlos and Jason Sanchez, first-time feature filmmakers with a background in still photography, music-videos and TV commercials, Allure (which played festivals under the title A Worthy Companion) is more than a little reminiscent of Badlands, minus the shifting spectacle of the open road—the "away" in "running away" being a relative term. Laura and Eva don't get far and much of their inevitably rocky relationship plays out indoors, where close quarters and the fact that Eva's mother wastes no time trying to track down her missing daughter quickly intrude on their fragile dream of freedom and possibility beyond doing what other people expect of them. Wood, who began her career as a child actress, has the more troubling and mercurial role; Laura is old enough for her life to have soured both in ways she could have avoided and for reasons over which she had no control. It's clear that she sees something of her younger self in Eva—mostly youthful recklessness and frustration at being told what to do by adults whose own behavior was/is far from exemplary—and that Eva sees Laura as a cool adult with the resources to do things a teenager can't. Much of the movie's interest lies in the shifting relationship between them, and while the bones are in the script, the two actresses bring considerable depth and nuance to their roles.

Ultimately, Allure is a two-person drama—it's not hard to imagine it as a stage piece in which parents and other secondary characters are present only in dialogue—but the Sanchezes keep it visually interesting without detracting from the interplay between the leads. That Stone (who at 20 has a resume that stretches back to 2009) holds her own against Wood bodes well for her adult career.

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