Indie Spotlight: Always Shine (2016) - Reviewed

The inherent dangers of female friendship and ego driven jealousy has been shown a glaring spotlight this year with such wonderful indie features as The Neon Demon and now the stunning character study, Always Shine

Carved from the same mold as many other female driven dramas, this little portrait of a deteriorating friendship allows an actress to bloom into her own.  Sophia Takal's adventurously darkened tale of an excursion into possible madness is one that stuck with me for a couple days after, allowing me to stew on the premise and the way her performers delivered such believable roles. Sometimes, the most bareboned studies of human nature bring about a contemplative afterthought that continues to highlight the director's thoughtful composition on how people may act and react during situations of duress. Honestly, reactionary is one of the best terms I can come up with when defining this feature. 

Always Shine revels in the stresses of a friendly partnership that's quickly unraveling as success and failure meet head on. With one character hitting her creative peak as an actress and the other flailing in a drought of expressionist short features, Always Shine is a devout look at how women will cut each other's throats for success and how quickly the claws can come out when threatened by another's looks or beauty. As a drama, the two leads, Mackenzie Davis (Halt and Catch Fire) and Caitlyn FitzGerald (Masters of Sex), play perfectly to the opposing ends of the spectrum. Much like real life, they bounce off each other naturally and do a wonderful job stabbing and jabbing at each other's fragile emotions. As the story takes some dark turns, Davis comes into her own as a certified breakout star.

Do you love me? Well, I love me. Let's make out. 

Always Shine is one of those films that will keep you scratching your head for days. You're not sure if you just watched what you thought you watched. You're never quite certain if the entire thing was real. And you have to turn your head in wonder. How could things ever get this bad? Takal's direction paired with a nearly perfect screenplay allows room for expansion with an ending that may have you wanting to watch this again. While some may turn their nose up at this movie just for the fact that it's a lower budget indie flick, this reminded me heavily of the modern masterpiece, 2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene. If Mackenzie Davis doesn't find herself in huge budget features very soon, it will be shocking. Her acting in Always Shine is one of the definitive dramatic moments of 2016. 

This is what great films are made of. Great direction. Excellent acting. And thought provoking interaction between characters. Always Shine takes one of my highest scores of 2016. 



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