Never Here: The Lady Vanishes, by David Bax
Camille Thoman’s Never Here, with its tale of a curious innocent embroiled in a criminal mystery, clearly draws inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock. In one scene, a character is even watching The Lady Vanishes on television, just to make the connection obvious. But there’s another influence at work here. With its dark rooms, its psychological dread and the main character’s increasingly slippery grasp on her own identity, it’s one of the most Lynchian films not actually made by David Lynch.
Mireille Enos plays Miranda, a conceptual artist carrying on an affair with her married art dealer, Paul (Sam Shephard). Late one night in Miranda’s apartment, Paul looks out the window and sees a woman being attacked. Not wanting his whereabouts that night to be known, he declines to call the police. Miranda does, though, and gives Paul’s description as her own, becoming the key witness in the investigation. So far, I know, this sounds remarkably similar to the plot of Curtis Hanson’s The Bedroom Window. From this point, though, things begin to get weird as Miranda starts to lose the ability to trust her own eyes and mind.
Never Here takes place in a version of New York City where it is nearly always nighttime and, even when it’s not, it’s overcast and gray. Furthermore, the population of the city seems to have been depleted. Though people gather in bars or police stations, the streets and parks are rarely occupied by more than one or two individuals who aren’t characters in the movie. The effect is an illustration of Miranda’s paranoia; if the attacker is still at large and may know who Miranda is, who’s to say he’s not that guy around the corner or across the street?
It would be incorrect (or, at the very least, misleading) to describe Never Here as a horror movie. Still, Thoman employs the genre’s flourishes to subtle but expert effect, drawing out the tension to eventually fill every scene. It helps that Miranda has a dog. Dogs in horror movies are coalmine canaries, the first to sense something’s wrong and often the first to suffer. I can’t say whether or not Miranda’s dog makes it out okay, not because it would be a spoiler but because I simply couldn’t tell you for sure.
There’s a lot about the plot (for lack of a better word) of Never Here that I can’t be quite sure about, in fact, though that’s far from a complaint. It becomes harder to see the deeper into the blackness you go. That’s perhaps a metaphor for Miranda’s art, the focus of which is losing oneself in other people’s live. In a way, it’s a metaphor for Enos’ art as an actor, as well. It’s terrifying to think that, by trying to be someone else, you may lose yourself forever. But, in Thoman’s hands, it’s both strange and wonderful to behold.