Nina Forever (2015, dir. Ben & Chris Blaine)
Holly is in love with Rob. They both work at a local grocery store, and she learns he recently tried to kill himself out of the pain and guilt he still feels from his girlfriend, Nina’s death a couple of years ago. Holly is attracted to the angsty darkness of Rob, and the two find themselves hooking up in Rob’s bed a few days later. They don’t seem to notice the large, bloody stain forming on the sheets but take note when the specter of Nina manifests in the bed. From there we get a unique take on dealing with past relationships while attempting to forge a new one.
Nina Forever could have easily become a farce, but there is a concerted effort to maintain a tone that acknowledges the absurdity but takes the relationships of the three characters very seriously. The concept: a new lover haunted by their love’s old dead partner is not an entirely new idea. It’s been the subject of many romantic comedies, but this story doesn’t take the route you might expect. There is the proper reaction from the two leads to Nina’s arrival, shock and disgust, but after a few days, they begin to accept her. This moment is where the film gets truly interesting in the way it explores the haunting.
Holly becomes incredibly proactive in making Nina a part of she and Rob’s relationship, believing this will heal Rob’s pain and allow Nina to pass on. Her first attempt is to make the best of Nina interrupting she and Rob’s lovemaking by incorporating Nina. The ghost informs her that the only thing she feels is the persistent pain of her injuries from the car accident that killed her. Holly is a very persistent character while Nina seems only concerned with ensuring that Rob remains her property.
I particularly liked the incorporation of Nina’s parents into the narrative. Rob has grown even closer to them in the wake of her death, but his relationship with each is very particular. Nina’s father acts as almost a guiding father figure to Rob encouraging him to return to his Master’s degree in mathematics while sharing his amateur attempts at novel writing. Nina’s mother has a much more intimate relationship with Rob, while not sexual, there is this ever present tension when they speak.
One of the core themes of the film is Holly’s frustration with how others perceive her. One of the first scenes of the film is her boyfriend breaking up with her citing Holly as being “Just so nice.” She is determined after this to embrace her dark side and make sure Rob knows how dark she is. The film never plays this up for laughs and lets us see Holly struggle with shaping her self-perceptions. Where her character ends up may be surprising for the viewer, and it’s played for an interesting contrast with how Rob closes out the narrative.
Nina Forever is a nicely done, independent horror drama. It has plenty of gore for the fans of that, but it also has an engaging and thoughtful storyline. Characters feel fully dimensional, and the directors trust us to disseminate information about them through off the cuff remarks and little glimpses of moments. This is not a feel-good movie where love conquers all. The Blaine Brothers are telling a story about a relationship, and it’s a very honest story that brings us to an inevitable conclusion.