Allure follows the story of Laura (Evan Rachel Wood), a troubled 30-year-old woman who works as a house cleaner for her father’s company. She’s someone who lives a life in solitude and has had trouble finding love. But that all changes once she meets a teenage girl named Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), a pianist who is dissatisfied with her privileged life with her overbearing mother. Once Laura persuades Eva to stay at her house and inadvertently kidnaps her, both women end up in a relationship fueled by manipulation and obsession.
The best way to describe Allure is that despite its concrete storytelling, the experience of watching it will be how you interpret it. It is rather unpleasant to watch because of its depiction of a toxic relationship but it is up to the viewers to determine how they view the relationship at hand. Is Laura a little too obsessive or should we feel sorry for her because of how psychologically damaged she is? As for me, I’m somewhere down the middle. I understood that Laura is quite infatuated with Eva because she’s the only one who showcases any sort of compassion for her and Laura is someone who's evidently been through a lot. However, I still wanted to spend less time with Laura as the film progressed. Also, other than glimpses of her troubled home life and a scene where she gets trapped in Laura’s basement, we don’t get much insight into Eva’s point of view which is problematic because we’re left unsure why she still sticks with Laura. Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome or maybe not. The film never tells us because we don’t get a large glimpse into Eva’s consciousness.
Despite Laura being a tough character to get behind, the actress playing her still makes the film watchable. Evan Rachel Wood, who is one of the most underrated actresses working today, does some of the best work of her career as Laura, initially showcasing a sweet and smiley façade for the object of her affection before quickly revealing her true self. However, Julia Sarah Stone is the film’s greatest discovery. Even if the film does her character a disservice, Stone does an exemplary job at portraying Eva’s teenage angst and lovelorn curiosity.
But one actor who also delivers is the highly underrated Denis O’Hare as William, Laura’s father. Despite his character being in the background at first, as he gets weaved into the picture more, O’Hare is able to slowly peel back hidden layers to his character. William seems like a father who feels absent because Laura mainly turns to him for financial and job support. But as the film progresses and events take a more drastic turn, we see that he truly is a loving and caring father who feels guilt over not helping his daughter more.
As for the direction, Carlos and Jason Sanchez have a background in photography and it really shows. There are some sequences that are shot so colorfully by cinematographer Sara Mishara and attempt to make a film that is a grueling experience watchable. Because this is their feature film debut, they still have ways to go in terms of screenwriting since the film doesn’t really pay off in the end. But they still did an admirable job trying to leave the experience of watching this relationship up to the viewer.
Despite Allure not living up to its title, it still features exemplary performances by its leading actresses and colorful cinematography that elevate the mishandled screenplay. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, Evan Rachel Wood gets better scripts that are worthy of her tremendous yet underrated talents.
Allure is in theaters and on Demand on March 16, 2018.