By Adam Ray Palmer
The next film on the GFF journey is the stylish noir thriller, Superior, from first-time feature director Erin Vassilopoulos.
Starring Alessandra Mesa, Ani Mesa, Pico Alexander and Jake Hoffman; Superior is the feature-film version of the 2015 short film of the same name.
Superior follows twin sisters Marion and Vivian (Alessandra Mesa and Ani Mesa respectively) who live very different lives. Marian is a talented musician but on the run from an abusive relationship and Vivian is living the low-key housewife life as she looks after her husband, Michael and their surroundings.
When Marian decides to drop in unannounced on her twin sister, the pair decide to switch places and take over each other’s daily routines. But as they delve deeper into their identities, past ghosts are awakened as the past and present collide – forcing the sisters to confront their issues culminating in a shocking resolution.
This is the second in as many films I have watched this festival that is built around a strong character study-based narrative. As the film is driven more by character than it is plot, it leaves a lot of holes sporadically along the runtime. It’s normally very difficult to get the perfect mix right, and maybe that’s my one frustration with this film as it should be nailed. As this comes from a short, there is now naturally more time to explore the characters but more importantly a layered narrative. Whilst the movie is visually more attractive, there's not a lot else apart from great acting performances that warrants an elongated version.
The struggle from short form to feature is apparent from the beginning with a few lull moments in the narrative where it takes a while to get going. However, by the time we hit the middle section, it does strike a decent chord in rhythm, thanks in large part to the charismatic weight of the twin Mesas.
For a debut feature film though, Erin Vassilopoulos does add an aesthetically pleasing movie to the noir genre. It’s vibrant, intense and feels eerily quiet; very reminiscent of Guadagnino’s 2018 Suspiria and recently Bailey-Bond’s 2021 indie, Censor. Similarly, to the aforementioned, Superior is a film about escapism. It's about blurring lines and minimising identities.
Whilst Superior doesn’t alight my cinematic match throughout, there are certainly scenes and performances to savour. The film is richly produced with care and consideration, and Vassilopoulos’ style and visual palette is worth keeping an eye out of for. With a stronger script, Superior could have been a tough debut to beat with Erin’s inevitable follow ups.
Cineroom’s rating: 3.5 stars
Superior premieres at the 2022 Glasgow Film Festival on 8th March – certificate 15