The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Nina Forever

Nina Forever would be funny if it wasn't so disturbing, and it would be disturbing if it wasn't so funny. This is a hard movie to classify. It's not quite a horror film, although it uses a number of familiar horror elements to tell a story that is far more pensive than it might appear from just a cursory glance. Filmmakers Ben and Chris Blaine don't pull any punches; the picture more than earns its R rating, but it does so for totally justified reasons. Nina Forever works because it's not afraid to push the envelope.

Cian Berry plays Rob, a young man who unsuccessfully attempts suicide following the death of his girlfriend Nina in a car accident. In an effort to move on following this tragedy, he begins dating Holly (Abigail Hardingham), a supermarket employee/paramedic-in-training. During their first intimate encounter, the bed abruptly becomes bloody and the mangled body of Nina (Fiona O'Shaughnessy) appears. Because they never formally broke up, she continues to lay claim to Rob's affections. Holly, who was called “vanilla” by a previous boyfriend and consequently can't bear another heartbreak, refuses to be deterred by this dead woman repeatedly interfering in her otherwise positive new relationship. She decides to help Rob deal with the Nina problem in any way possible – even if that means embracing the dead woman's presence.

Nina Forever definitely has a macabre sense of humor that is intentionally jarring at times. Watching the deceased Nina battle Holly for the man they both love is funny in a (very) dark sort of way. So is Ben's resignation to the absurdity of his dead girlfriend reappearing. A scene in which he and Nina argue over whether death equals an automatic breakup almost makes you feel guilty for giggling.

Beneath the humor and the horror movie concept, though, the film deals with some fairly deep issues. At its heart, this is a movie about what it takes to keep going after a loss. Ben remains very connected to Nina's parents because they're all sharing the same grief. This makes it awkward when he comes around with a new girlfriend. Ben also has to learn to let go of his past life with Nina, even though she keeps cropping up. He wants to focus on his new relationship with Holly, but it proves difficult to forget about the feelings he had for the woman who is no longer alive. Nina Forever works as a metaphor for the struggle to carry on following a breakup or a death. Addressing this theme in a “horror” movie was a great idea, because it allows the depth of the theme to sink in while still working as a piece of entertainment.

The three main actors all do terrific work in their roles, but the standout is probably Abigail Hardingham as Holly. Her character has a specific arc: Holly thinks – or deludes herself into thinking – that she can help Rob heal. She wants to be his emotional savior, which allows her to cross certain boundaries when dealing with Nina. Hardingham really captures that quality people have when they try to save someone else, oblivious to the fact that they're also acting in their own self-interest. If Holly can help Rob get over Nina, their romance can continue. If not, both are screwed.

Nina Forever could have gone a step or two further with some of its most extreme/outrageous ideas to maximize their impact even more, but on the whole, this is an ambitious work of storytelling. There are a few shocking plot elements that, to preserve surprise, are being left out of this review. Suffice it to say, they help drive the central theme home. Moving on, the film says, is not easy. We are tied to our own pasts, to the people we loved, to the way of life we lived. Nina may be gone (sort of), but she's not forgotten. Her impact continues to be felt. Rob has to come to terms with that, while Holly has to accept that a piece of him eternally belongs to someone else.

This dark, twisted little movie has something worthwhile to say, and it does so with wicked style and appealingly demented humor.

( out of four)

Note: Nina Forever is in select theaters and also available on iTunes/VOD.

Nina Forever is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, bloody images, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 38 minutes.

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