The world we live in is dominated by technology. I personally cannot walk into a single room where I live and not find a television, gaming system, or an Alexa. Shorts and features regarding social media, technology, and online culture are some of the most prominent (and best) films running the festival circuit. From Nathan Crooker’s short film #NOFILTER to Jane Schoenbrun’s We’re All Going To The World’s Fair, these films tackle the idea of technology in our lives, and they are being rewarded greatly. As with every subgenre, some people will take ideas too literally, and some won’t dig deep enough into them; that is not the case with Follow Her.
The world is obsessed with ways to get their 15 minutes, and it’s really interesting to see how the artists of today tackle that subject. How would you go about telling the ultimate story ever told in the modern age? How can you take an idea that’s been done before and make it original? I don’t have the answer, but Dani Barker’s screenplay is an intriguing and fascinating look at the human condition and how different personalities deal with technology, fame, and their image in this world.
Follow Her chronicles the life of Jess Peters (Dani Barker) and her attempt at becoming a self-sustaining artist. What little income she is bringing in from her extreme encounters is supplemented through her father’s, Richard (Mark Moses), bank account. One of the few issues I had with the character of Jess as a whole is finding it hard to feel bad for someone who wants to be an artist but is supported fully. As someone who struggles within the industry, it originally felt disingenuous to try and make someone care for a character like that. Very soon into the film her father cuts her off, making it so that she now has to find her own way.
In the true spirit of a broke artist, Jess decides to take on a job from a Craigslist posting, which is to assist in writing a screenplay, something she can definitely do. Even after watching one of the videos Tom Brady (Luke Cook) sends her, she agrees to do it. What ensues next is absolutely bonkers and one of the most intriguing directions I have seen a film take in quite a long time. The mixture of ambiguity and full-on visual assault we get turns this from what seems like a psychological thriller to a heart-pounding fight for survival. The tension builds really well throughout the first half of the movie, and you know something is off. You don’t necessarily know what is off, or why it’s off, but you get the sense that something isn’t right.
One of the biggest successes of this film is the acting. Mark Moses (Desperate Housewives) does a fantastic job in his role, though he always does. Luke Cook nails the Mark Duplass-ness of his character and really sells every scene. The shining star is definitely writer Dani Barker as Jess. She gives one of the most compelling performances of the year in this role, maybe even one of the most compelling of our decade. She sort of gives off this blasé mixed with passion performance that transcends her screen time and lingers with you long after the credits roll.
Another really interesting aspect of this film is how the story unfolds, making it a story within a story about the ultimate way to tell a story. That doesn’t make sense if you haven’t seen it. This is in no way the first time this kind of story has been told, but it is without a doubt one of the most interesting ways it has been told. Obviously it would be tragic if something like this existed in our universe, but it is enthralling to think about the types of stories that would be told if this was a reality.
The best way to describe the tone of this film is if Creep and Fresh had a baby that was raised by David Lynch. Its lighting makes you feel comfortable and warm, while the actions, even the most ambiguous of them, make you frightened and worried. Follow Her is an enjoyable film to just sit down and enjoy, but there are layers of commentary deep in the celluloid. For Sylvia Caminer’s feature directorial debut (that is not a documentary) I am completely blown away. If this is Caminer’s first horror film, just image the things she could create next.
Follow Her goes from the open streets of New York, full of people and sound, to a house in the woods, isolated and claustrophobic. The setting of the house allows for the intricate things that get pulled off to make sense in the universe without seeming far fetched, or just completely unbelievable. Plus I’m sure filming the majority of your movie in one location is great on the wallet, too.
Follow Her surprised me in a way I was not expecting, and is one of the standout films that I have recently seen. We still have a few months left for this year, but I can comfortable say this film will stay on my top 10 list of favorite films of the year. This film is an ambiguously nuanced piece of work that will definitely hold up upon rewatch. It will be interesting to see if a film like this gets characterized as a “good for her” film, I could easily see debates breaking out about it. Keep an eye out for this one!