Sunday 28 February 2021

Come True (Canada 2020: Dir Anthony Scott Burns)

Like A Nightmare on Elm Street reimagined by Nicolas Winding Refn or a younger Michael Mann, Burns's second feature is a woozy, protracted sci-drama starring newcomer Julia Sarah Stone as Sarah, a young girl whose difficult relationship with her mother (she can't even sleep in the same house as her) leads her to sign up for a sleep trial at the local university just to get some shuteye.

The sleep study, due to last for two months, requires nothing more from elfin Sarah than to turn up, strap herself into a sensor rigged suit and start counting sheep. Her questions about the project are deflected; she only knows that she's one of six (two girls, four boys); Emily, the other girl, goes missing after the first night.

Sarah has recently been subject to a number of dreams - almost nightmares - in which a strange male figure features, often located inside a mountain or organic looking constructions.

After her first night, Sarah runs into a guy in a bookstore who recommends Philip K. Dick ("totally paranoid", he tells her). The man is Jeremy (Landon Laboiron), one of the study team, who turns out either to have a soft spot for her, or to have mistaken scientific interest for attraction. After her second night Sarah is shown a set of photographs, one of which she recognises - the stranger from her dreams - and which induces a panic attack. Sarah learns that the scientific team have developed a method of being able to record and transmit the study subjects' dreams. More disturbingly all of the volunteers have dreamt about the same man, a menacing figure with glowing eyes, whose motives are unclear but possibly predatory.

Come True is split into three parts: 'The Persona', 'The Shadow' and 'The Self'. The almost Jungian suggestions thrown up by these sub-titles are reflected in the rather earnest but oblique unfolding of the drama. Much is made of the moral dilemma associated with the team's research; the programme director worries about doing the right thing by the test subjects and that the scientists will either be "hailed or crucified" by what they're doing. 

Most of the focus here is on Sarah; 23 year old Stone here plays an 18 year old (but looks younger; the affirmation of her age shortly before she has sex with Jeremy seems as much to do with pacifying the audience as it does the plot) with, for the most part, a kind of disaffected ambivalence; there are clearly dark waters here - and maybe the suggestion of abuse - but nothing is made clear.

Ultimately Come True moves to an uncertain but atmospheric climax as a somnambulistic Sarah escapes the facility, tracked by Jeremy and assistant Anita (Carlee Ryski), faced with that age old problem of when, and if, to awaken a sleepwalker, as the Mann like strings on the soundtrack reach fever pitch. The movie's conclusion is as enigmatic as the rest of the thing; Come True is a difficult movie to like. Its glacial pace and woolly science will either intrigue you or leave you cold; stylish though the movie is, there just wasn't enough to hook me in.

Come True will be released via Lightbulb Distribution on Digital Download from 15 March, and on limited edition Blu-ray from 5 April.

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