Film Review: Moving on with “Nina Forever”

Nina Forever (movie still)

Nina Forever (movie still)

Nina Forever, 98 mins. Directed by Chris and Ben Blaine.

Preserving the memory of our dead in both figurative and literal shrines, we set their time in our lives between two dates on a headstone as if to pin down their spirits; but if it is a natural part of life to accept loss and let go of the departed, then Nina Forever is a cheeky examination of grief that juxtaposes the absurdity of denial with the reality of loss.

Protagonist Holly (played with glowering intensity by Abigail Hardingham) works at a supermarket when she’s not studying to be a paramedic. Rob is the anomaly in her otherwise banal world; having lost his girlfriend Nina (Fionna O’Shaughnessy) in a car accident and survived a subsequent grief-induced suicide attempt, he is a neon beacon for her nurturing instinct.

Unfortunately, the conflux of their desire and self-serving needs to comfort and be comforted acts as a signal fire to Nina: whenever Rob and Holly have sex, Nina’s broken and bloody body appears, much to their horror – and her annoyance (upon resurrection her first words are, “Not again.”) Surprisingly accepting of the situation, Holly is nevertheless prepared to do whatever it takes to help Rob move on.

While there is often a pronounced disjunction between dialogue, image, and action (we see and hear a memory intercut with present action), as a film exploring 20-something love and loss in the 21st century, the aesthetic and Nina’s character reflects the chronological fluidity of our era, when mobile internet facilitates a sense of everything happening simultaneously, both past and present. O’Shaughnessy as Nina is simply brilliant and her every moment onscreen fascinates: from the ghastly sight of her naked, ruined form (genuinely unsettling to not only see, but hear – the liquescent rattling of broken bones is particularly affecting) to her measured delivery of witty, petulant dialogue, the pathos she evokes for her character merits repeat viewings and her scathing critique of Rob and Holly’s relationship is an inspiring treatment of dark nihilistic comedy.

***

Nina Forever is screening today at VIFF.