Erin Vassilopoulos’ film Superior has everything you would want, filmed in 16mm, filled with quirky moments and wonderfully styled. Yet, something is missing in the story that leaves you wanting something more from it.
On the run from an abusive relationship, musician Marian (Alessandra Mesa) drops in unannounced on her twin sister, Vivian (Ani Mesa), and her husband, Michael. As two very different sides of the same coin, the twins 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.
What happens when you get a film that is brimming full with style with a pretty predictable story about identical twin sisters who switch roles, with one unknowingly getting into more trouble than she bargained for? Then, you get the impressive Superior.
Now that introduction isn’t to diminish what we get with this film; it is a very solid piece that does Superior work as well as it does is the work put in by director Erin Vassilopoulos. There are little moments in her and star Alessandra Mesa’s script to reel you in with some bright comedy and drama of two siblings who have been long apart. You find yourself falling for this film for what does work and more than forgivable to those that do not.
However, there are lags within the story as we partially tread water while we wait for the inevitable moment when Robert makes his reappearance. In between, we get to see Marian spiral as her fears of Robert resurface more and more. Still, Vivian is having the most fun being this carefree version of herself as she smokes and roams about instead of being locked away like the dutiful housewife. Sadly, these moments in the second act are so familiar to audiences that you can guess the beats long before they arrive.
As said, though, the strength isn’t exactly in the story here for Superior as this is a film that is all about style. Filmed with some gorgeous 16mm film, it has the exact look you would want from it. As you could not imagine it in a glossy digital format somehow, it wouldn’t feel as visually appealing. However, the decision to set Superior in the 1980s helps with the visuals and allows Vassilopoulos to have fun with aesthetics. In addition, its tone allows us almost to forgive the standard story.
Both sisters Alessandra and Ani Mesa do some great work here as the twins, with both given enough to work within their own ways. Both can bring the most out of the script and perfectly show that although a film’s narrative can be one that we have seen before, it can still remain fresh with the right performers. In addition, Alessandra brings that haunted quality to Marian that you need for someone who has to return to the town she “escaped” from years prior.
It is actually a testament to her that you wonder want the film would be like if it focused more on her struggles of being back in the town and away from her band rather than have the uninspired “threat” of Robert. She is a character battling the demons of her past, and while she finds safety being home, she knows it cannot be for long, but the reconnection with her sister is pulling back at her.
With Ani, she brings a frustrated quality to Vivian, cautious but relieved to see her sister and quite reluctant to let her go now she is here. She is stuck in a marriage where the emotion has seemingly left it; she needs her sister to give her that purpose. If Superior kept following that line while having a possible threat of Robert hovering around instead of that misguided final act, this would be a far better film.
What does hit you, though, is that at times you are not sure what the film wants to be, it tries to have that sinister tone with the presence of Robert, but it is as if it doesn’t have the heart to be that and as said when it focuses on the dramedy side, it works so much better. Yet it is holding itself back from being funnier than what it is; the setups are all there. They just appear to have been ignored to focus on what isn’t necessary.
At times Superior works terrifically well. You feel for our two siblings and you enough their moments together. However, it feels as if the film went in a direction it didn’t need to see as that is a narrative we have seen repeatedly. Still, there is more than enough to enjoy.
Superior will be shown during the Glasgow Film Festival in person on Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th March. For more information click here.
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