Cinema Review: Nocebo


Posted 2 months ago in Cinema Reviews

When Lorcan Finnegan’s sophomoric feature Vivarium was released during the early days of the first lockdown, his nightmarish tale of an extra-dimensional suburban prison rang in eerie harmony with the moment. The Kafkaesque horror about first-time homeowners was not a deliberate comment on pandemics nor quarantines.

But, in its examination of inescapable domesticity, it captured a familiar sense of despair that had emerged as countless people were stripped of their agency by an unfathomable, indifferent force.

His follow-up film, Nocebo, feels like an apt companion piece. Like a coda to Covid, it utilises the subject of chronic illness as a jumping off point for a fresh and feverish exploration of the banality of evil.

Christine (Eva Green) is a well-to-do children’s clothing designer who has contracted a Lyme-like disease from a spectral tick. Her illness baffles doctors, and her husband (Mark Strong) seems convinced that it is psychosomatic.

For months, her every effort to recover from its long-term effects is fruitless. She experiences memory and hair loss, respiratory issues and muscular spasms. But, as her career is on the brink of collapse, her sense of hope is restored by the sudden arrival of Diane (Chai Fonancier), a Filipino woman claiming to be an au pair Christine hired for her daughter

Unable to recall whether or not she hired Diane, Christine reluctantly lets her into the family. Any doubts on Christine’s part are dispelled once Diana demonstrates a shrewd ability to treat her every symptom. But, as the enigmatic au pair wins over the ailing designer, it slowly becomes evident that neither woman is what they seem on the surface

Unpredictable Nocebo isn’t. But that isn’t a flaw in this case. Finnegan is a director who is at his best when he deals with the inescapable, and here, the audience is made to feel as if they too are trapped. The outcome is inevitable. But the exit was passed before the film even began. As was the case with Vivarium, any sense of hope is illusory. But whereas previously, he dealt out his harrowing fates at random, here, every action is fitting of the crime. 

Words: Michael Lanigan

Nocebo

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

Talent: Eva Green, Mark Strong, Chai Fonancier

Release Date: December 9

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