Lavender revolves around Jane (Abbie Cornish, Limitless, Sucker Punch), a photographer who is involved in a tense marriage with her husband Alan (Diego Klattenhoff, star of TV’s The Blacklist and Pacific Rim), which she balances with being a mother to her sassy daughter Alice (newcomer Lola Flanery, of Sadie’s Last days on Earth, Mary Kills People). After getting into a pretty awful car accident, memories from Jane’s distant past come bubbling up to the surface, forcing her to face a tragedy surrounded by people she can’t even recall.
While there are not many characters in Lavender, they all serve a purpose. It is arguably much better to populate a movie with fewer, meaningful characters than stuff it with a whole bunch that are hard to even keep up with. Besides Jane, who is interesting and mysterious all by herself, Alice and Alan are nice additions who add meat and realism to the story. Alan is a pretty decent dad who makes up for Jane being lost in her forgotten memories.
Elsewhere, quick-witted Alice provides some much-needed comic relief during the film’s tenser moments. Although Lavender does utilize Alice for some of the creepier parts, she isn’t overused as the typical, clichéd scary-kid-who-can-sees-dead-people characterizations we have seen a million times before, which in itself is refreshing. This is just one of many things Lavender also does well, and that keep it interesting and motivate us, as viewers, to follow through to the end.
There are some nice, cerebral moments that are especially crafted in order for the audience (and Jane!) to try and put the pieces together from the past that she didn’t even know existed. While these scenes could be squandered on abstract symbolism aimed at being edgy just for the sake of it, Lavender takes a different approach in how these moments are shared.
For instance, while Jane is walking through a cornfield, she follows the rustling of what she thinks is her daughter playing a trick on her, but after not finding Alice there, a red balloon appears and begins to float next to her. This is an interesting moment that straddles the line between whether it has a root in reality and is just one example of how the movie plays with our expectations.
Moreover, the choice of score and soundtrack is genuinely fantastic. It is not as jarring as a soundtrack like Insidious, but the violin chords and increasing volume in the more exciting moments add a delicious cherry on top of what is happening. Too often, music is overused in horror films, which makes the soundtrack boring and painfully predictable. That extra detail in Lavender just gave it another bump into making it an enjoyable experience.
However, for all the praise I have given Lavender, there is one glaring issue. Throughout the film, we are unsure of Jane’s past and what her disjointed memories mean. The story leads the audience down a rabbit hole of random clues and mysteries in order to figure out what is plaguing her, but there is a point where it is almost too much.
Lavender waits too long to reveal the entirety of her backstory, but luckily the ending is heartfelt, well-crafted, and satisfying, so we’re sent off on a high note. I cannot say if I would see Lavender in a less positive light if the ending wasn’t as great as it was, since the film tests your patience in waiting for the answers to all of the burning questions. In this case a sloppy ending would have damaged all the previous work that was put in, but thankfully this isn’t the case here.
Overall, Lavender is a good watch with a heartfelt story, some key performances from a small cast and a well-crafted mystery to keep the thing chugging along. While it has some horror aspects and thriller moments, this is more of a psychological drama than a Friday night scare fest. I recommended this movie if you are in the mood for something cerebral and different, but it’s not exactly the next Insidious.
Catch Lavender when it’s released in select theaters, on VOD, and on Digital HD March 3, 2017
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Ed Gass-Donnelly
Writer(s): Colin Frizzell, Ed Gass-Donnelly
Stars: Dermot Mulroney, Abbie Cornish, Justin Long
Studio/ Production Co: South Creek Pictures, 3 Legged Dog Films
Release date: March 3, 2017
Language: English Length: 92 min
Length: 92 min