Bearing witness to a toxic relationship unfolding in front of you is not a pleasing task, and brothers Carlos and Jason Sanchez are well aware of that. Their feature film debut, Allure, is a realistic portrayal of someone who’s gone off the deep end and redemption seems to be nowhere in reach. You can’t exactly feel sympathy for her, as she destroys her life and damages those around her. Unfortunately, that’s also a major problem with the film. Our main character’s actions are irredeemable, and the movie’s focus is way too serious to get fully engaged. No matter how displeasing something like this is, there at least needs to be a little light shining through the cracks.
Evan Rachel Wood plays Laura, a woman who is a house cleaner for her father’s company. While she goes door to door, getting every speck of dust and making sure every window is streak free, her life outside of work isn’t something that is exactly admirable. In the film’s opening scene, we see her having sex with some stranger while he’s blindfolded. She has a craving for sexual satisfaction, and she’ll get it any way she can. But there’s more to her beyond one-night stands that make her life so tragic and so intriguing, and we only get hints of it. She has had a troubled past, but there isn’t much exploration into it. We’re only seeing what’s going on in her life at this current moment.
While on the job, she comes across a 16-year-old girl named Eva (Julia Sarah Stone). Although she’s forced to take piano lessons because of her mother, Eva also has a punk rock side with her interest in Nirvana, which draws Laura into a conversation with her. In Eva, Laura finds something that is missing from her life: innocence. She sees something in Eva for which she has longed, and that no anonymous man can give her.
There are plenty of moments of joy shared throughout Allure that work due to the chemistry Wood and Stone have. You can see romance blossoming between the two, and it’s a treat to watch. But Laura soon becomes controlling and toxic, demanding so much out of Eva and making sure she complies. In these moments, Wood electrifies the screen - turning Laura into a horrific monster of a person. It’s a terrific performance in a movie that, unfortunately, doesn’t have anywhere to go beyond showing just how horrible Laura can be.
Stone is also terrific as Eva, the uncertain teenager who gave up everything for the hope of a better life only to discover that she got something that is just as horrifying and tragic as what she had before. The Sanchez brothers don’t spend as much time with Eva as they do with Laura, and that’s unfortunate, because it would have been interesting to see her side of the relationship and not just Laura’s.
As terrific as Wood is, the character of Laura is one that has so many irredeemable qualities, and she only makes them worse as time goes on. She lies, gets into arguments with her father (a great Denis O’Hare), and keeps falling into the same traps she can’t escape. As a viewer, it’s hard to root for her when she is consistently making things worse for herself and those around her. And the Sanchez brothers keep the film on that path and don’t let up.
By the end, Allure is a bit underwhelming, but it shows that the Sanchez brothers have a good future ahead of them in filmmaking. It is gorgeously filmed and wonderfully acted by everyone involved. There just needs to be more of a reason to care for a story about someone who is as troubled as the one presented here.