Marina de Van’s 2009 French thriller “Don’t Look Back” actually had potential! If only the promise shown in the first half of the movie had lived up till the end, “Don’t Look Back” could have been a solid example of a must-see, psychological thriller. But alas! So is not the case!
Jeanne (Sophie Marceau), a writer by profession lives in a plush apartment with her two children and husband Teo (Andrea Di Stefano). A strange encounter with a little girl triggers a string of events that seem to be visible only to Jeanne. These events particularly involve “changes”. By changes, we do not mean changes in someone’s behavior or circumstances.
These are physical changes…we are talking a complete metamorphosis; as she sees the arrangement of furniture in her house changing…she sees even some of the interiors in the house changing..and little by little the changes frighteningly start to happen in the physical appearances of her children, her husband and her own self……Jeanne knows what she is seeing isn’t imagination, yet as everything around her, including her own appearance change in a way that they start to look like different people altogether, others around her insist that this is the way it has always been! Even when she sees her own video recordings she sees the ‘other’ woman in the footage that actually belongs to her! Baffled, as Jeanne is, just like us shocked viewers, her ‘changed’ self, the new Jeanne (Monica Bellucci) tries to find some answers to this situation, using only one old photograph she finds in her mother’s place, as a clue…
For the first half, the film keeps us glued to our seats with its highly innovative and outlandish plot and its use of some interesting special effects. Yes..we must talk special effects here, as at one point, when the change is “in progress”, you actually see a lady that is a “mix” of Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci…of course, this woman isn’t a pleasant sight to watch, as half her features resemble those of Bellucci and the other half look like those belonging to Marceau (gasp!)!. This is not a perfect half-n-half either…it is a strange “blend”, as this partly ‘changed’ woman has the eyes of Monica Bellucci, the mouth of Sophie Marceau, a nose that is part Bellucci - part Marceau, and so on! It is this aspect of the effects that I particularly was in awe of. It was done so well…likewise the other characters, but their changes aren’t shown to be as realistic as those seen in the central character.
Nonetheless, it is when Jeanne (Monica Bellucci) finds an old photograph that she believes will give her some answers to the spooky happenings, that the film starts descending the downward spiral! What could’ve been a truly awesome Kafkaesque or even Lynchian thriller, succumbs to the “trying to wrap everything in a neat package” syndrome, as the writers actually start dishing out some “realistic” answers pertaining to the “real world” to a plot built around surrealism! And not surprisingly, this approach actually does the film a lot of disservice, as the conclusion seems so contrived and unconvincing, that it renders the rest of the happenings illogical and more incoherent even from the perspective of the “unreal” world! Real world justifications (especially lame ones) for unreal happenings just don’t hold water…and perhaps Marina de Van forgot this little fact!