Sophia Takal’s unnerving Always Shine is the most overtly (and awesomely) feminist horror movie since last year’s Felt. Los Angeles actresses Anna (Halt and Catch Fire‘s Mackenzie Davis) and Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald) are lifelong friends whose relationship splintered when Beth’s career became the more successful of the two. They decide to spend a weekend in a house in Big Sur to mend fences, but their jealousies and animosities boil over into violence by the end of the second act, and then reality starts getting twisty. That’s also when Always Shine‘s thematic connection to Ingmar Bergman’s two-women-in-an-isolated-house Persona becomes all the more apparent, down to intentional glimpses of the film crew. But the real horror of Always Shine is that if you removed all the thriller elements, it would still be reminiscent of one of those videos of a woman walking down the street being harassed by men, from Beth being preemptively criticized at an audition for a schlock-horror movie over possibly not wanting to do a nude scene with to the (seemingly) nicest man in the film. That would be beardo bartender Jesse — played by Lawrence Michael Levine, one rubber band away from a man-bun — who describes a woman who doesn’t want to get into a car with a strange man as “a snob.” The reality portrayed in those moments is what shines through the most.
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