The Stylist (Arrow)  – ★★★★

The Stylist (Arrow) – ★★★★

Jill Gevargizian continues her upward trajectory as a filmmaker with her strong feature debut The Stylist. Led by the empathetic yet murderous Najarra Townsend, we are given a film that expands upon her 2016 short tremendously.

Claire (Najarra Townsend) works in a small salon obsessing over the lives of her glamorous customers to the point of wanting to be them – by removing their scalps and wearing them like wigs. But when one of her regular customers, Olivia (Brea Grant), asks Claire to look after her hair for her upcoming wedding, she soon finds herself being drawn deeper into Olivia’s circle of friends, risking exposing her murderous secrets.

Claire at first is presented as a cunning killer in the opening scene, yet as The Stylist slowly proceeds, we find that Claire is the exact opposite. She is in fact a lonely person wanting to feel more, wanting to feel love and instead of styling people to look gorgeous she wants everyones eyes on her. She just doesn’t know how to make it happen, right down to the being in total ignorance to the flirty advances of a barista. She is a person who hates herself wholly and wants to be someone else, not deeming herself worthy of the attention she oh so desperately craves.

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Najarra Townsend shines as the aforementioned Claire. Playing a character who is not sure of anything other than to be something she isn’t. Throughout you feel the nerves in Claire in any interaction. Townsends performance actually makes you sympathise for her murderous character, you can see the desperation in her. The want to stop what she is doing and to live a normal happy life, but such desires seen to always be fingertips away, yet no one but Claire is stopping her from getting there.

Jill Gevargizian shows complete confidence within herself and her story, making it a very polished and stylish piece. She throws in numerous split screens to show us the lives of Claire and Olivia and in one of the final split screens slowly merges the two together in a very simple but effective manner. By counteracting Claire’s nervous demeanour with the always fantastic Brea Grants Olivia and her commanding confidence Gevargizian is able to manoeuvre the story in a way that is pitch perfect.

The introduction and subsequent development of Olivia allows The Stylist to present itself more to the side of the trappings of having crippling low self-confidence and the woes of being introduced into a new world where she can blossom, but the sheer fear of doing so freezes Claire and she can only help but be envious of Olivia and her group of friends. These are women who can go out and be and do whatever they want. Something Claire feels she can never attain. While we have seen ideas like this dozens of times before The Stylist is able to stand out thanks to how Gevargizian controls the film.

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Her use of psychology throughout the story enables the audience to relate to all of the characters, we have experienced or known someone has experienced something similar throughout the story (apart from the moments of brutal scalpings). Who hasn’t felt awkward attending a party and meeting your new friend, friends and trying to integrate yourself in. Similarly who hasn’t perhaps told someone serving them, be it a stylist or a retail worker something they shouldn’t. The film is filled with these little moments and it lulls the audience in. So when Claire does what she does and takes her spiral down. It is a complex film led by a complex character.

By having Claire be so empathetic The Stylist shocks its audience when Claire carries out her act. It aptly toes the line for the audience here and it is a credit to the writing that we do have these emotions. The film slows down a tad too much before we ramp it back up for the finale, but it doesn’t detract from everything else that works so well. This is a small flick that

The Stylist is in the end the tragic tale of a woman who couldn’t find her place in the world. A stunning debut that will have audiences looking forward to what Gevargizian does next.

See THE STYLIST first, on March 1st 2021, exclusively on ARROW.


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