Esme, My Love Skimps Too Much on Its Story

Image provided by Terror Films

I went into Esme, My Love pretty blind. I knew the basic, one-line premise of the story, and I knew it was some sort of supernatural drama horror, but beyond that, I was completely in the dark. However, the little bit I did know sounded pretty good to me, so I decided to take a chance on it. I requested a screener and hoped for the best, and after finally getting the chance to see it, I’m sad to say that it left me pretty disappointed.

Esme, My Love was directed by Cory Choy, and it stars Stacey Weckstein and Audrey Grace Marshall. It’s about a woman named Hannah who takes her daughter Esme into the woods one day after finding out that the girl has a terminal illness, and while there, the two dig around and try to find things other people have left behind.

I know that plot synopsis probably sounds really vague and undercooked, but without spoiling anything, there’s really not much more I can say. Aside from the third act, that’s pretty much all there is to this movie, so if you’re looking for a gripping narrative, Esme, My Love won’t be for you.

In fact, for most of its runtime, I wasn’t even sure what it was about. For the first hour or so, it’s basically just Hannah and Esme walking around, talking about random stuff, and looking for things that have been left behind by other people, but it never really gives you a good idea of where the story is headed.

People on a boat on a lake
Image provided by Terror Films

It kind of just meanders along aimlessly, and even when it finally does pull back the curtain a bit, it’s still pretty obscure. Up until the last 20 minutes or so, you only get a few hints here and there as to what’s really going on, so you still don’t truly know what Esme, My Love is about.

To be fair, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I like slow burns, so I don’t mind it when a film prioritizes other elements over its story. However, for that strategy to work, those other elements have to be good enough to pick up the slack, and unfortunately, that’s where Esme, My Love falls short.

Let’s start with the characters. When the movie begins, it does a great job of showing just how distraught Hannah is over Esme’s illness. The first scene shows them driving out to the woods, and she has a look of utter despair on her face. It’s pretty heartbreaking, so I couldn’t help but sympathize with her right from the get-go.

Those positive feelings carried over for about 30 or 40 minutes, but after that, they began to wear off. Don’t get me wrong, I think the two leads do an excellent job playing their characters, but they’re not given enough to do for Hannah and Esme to be truly great. Granted, they would’ve been more than adequate if the story were better, but since this movie stands or falls almost entirely on the strength of these two characters, they’re not quite up to the job.

A girl looking distraught
Image provided by Terror Films

Next, let’s talk a bit about the horror in Esme, My Love. For about the first half hour or so, this film is almost entirely a drama, so don’t expect chills and thrills every few minutes. The horror is almost as much of a slow burn as the plot, but soon enough, we start getting little glimpses of it here and there. At first, those glimpses are pretty few and far between, but as the movie goes on, they become more and more frequent.

And taken on their own merits, they’re pretty good. The imagery is creepy, the tension is almost palpable at times, and when these spooky moments come unexpectedly, they make for some effective jump scares. However, despite the strong execution, the horror in this film suffers from a big problem that saps it of almost all its potency. Since I didn’t know where the story was going, I didn’t know what these scares were about either. More often than not, they just left me scratching my head, so rather than scare me or creep me out, they only added to my confusion about what was going on.

All that being said, I still went into the last 20 minutes or so of Esme, My Love with an open mind. Granted, I didn’t really think it would win me over in its final few scenes, but I hadn’t checked out so much that I was past the point of no return. There was a small chance that a great finale would change my mind about the entire movie, and since I want to enjoy every film I see, I hoped it would. But unfortunately, this part of the movie is just more of the same. The story continues to take a back seat, and everything else in it falls a little bit short of making up for it.

So at the end of the day, I’m sad to say that I wouldn’t recommend Esme, My Love. The performances and the horror are actually pretty good, but they’re not good enough to overcome the film’s weak (or, more accurately, almost nonexistent) story. It’s just a bit too thin in that department for my tastes, so when the credits began to roll, I walked away pretty disappointed.

Esme, My Love is set to hit VOD on June 2.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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