Coming Soon: Nemesis (2019) - Reviewed

A three-way dance via an unconventional chamber piece, Carl Joglar's debut feature Nemesis is one of the first genuine surprises of independent cinema in 2019.  Produced on a shoestring budget from a crowdfunding campaign, this is a clinic on how to avoid low budget pitfalls.  Drawing inspiration from Sarte and True Detective, Nemesis is a murky psychological thriller that features an outstanding trio of performances and clever camerawork throughout.  

McKenzie is a fugitive recovery agent, transporting a dangerous killer, when a car accident allows her quarry to escape.  In the woods, the other driver becomes entangled in the pursuit, forcing McKenzie to confront the truth that nothing is what it seems.  Joglar also wrote the script, and it has been nominated for several awards at film festivals, particularly for its diverse approach to its subject matter.  Not only are these real and believable characters, they are representative of the world today, echoing its triumphs and horrors.  Sarah Villegas gives a memorable performance as the battle-hardened McKenzie.  Her chemistry with Colleen Slattery's Abigail forms the foundation of the narrative, with each actress deftly swirling within a tempest of deception.  The brilliance of the script is in how it organically flows through each conversation.  Budget constraints ensured this would be a dialogue heavy affair, and yet Villegas' ironclad command of McKenzie's resolve propels the story seamlessly.  Slattery enhances the skulduggery with a layered performance that she vanishes inside of.  This a complex, paranoia infused experience in which everyone is lying and telling the truth simultaneously and Joglar's ability to balance these paradoxes is a miracle to behold. 

Rounding out the cast is Nicholas Wilder as the murderous Noah.  One of the most important aspects of Wilder's performance is that he is the foil to the two leads.  His unpredictable rogue vacillates between malice and mania in virtually every scene and Wilder manages to mostly stick the transitions.  His scenes with Villegas and Slattery are important, but it is the scenes in which he is absent that have the most impact, as the specter of Noah's darkness haunts the forests and the women within it.

The credits are a direct homage to True Detective, and yet, this is an atypical neo-noir.  An elegiac tragedy full of light and hope, two things unusual for such a film, Nemesis begins and ends with trauma in the daylight.  Alex Grene's vivid cinematography mixes close ups of the principals with sweeping shots of the environment that gives the film an otherworldly ambiance.  It is a simple premise that is enveloped by astounding craftsmanship and it stays within the mind's eye long after it is finished.  

Coming (hopefully) soon to digital streaming, Nemesis is an amazing, old school cinematic experience.  Films that rely on the creativeness of their crew and the talent of their leads are always a labor of love.  It is clear, from the first frame that Joglar's vision has been realized, as the viewer is taken into a dark Wonderland of the soul.   An exceptional trio of performances coalesces into a unique spin on the serial killer genre; a female-centric story about deceit and the power of persuasion that is not to be missed.  

--Kyle Jonathan