Starring Abigail Hardingham, Cian Barry, Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Elizabeth Elvin, David Troughton
Directed by Chris Blaine and Ben Blaine
There are certainly a great deal of heavy-handed films about loss and the grief we suffer after someone we love has gone on to the other side, but few capture what it would be like if you could never put that grief to bed or, in this case, actually get it out of bed. Nina Forever brings to life, quite literally, the problems two young adults face when they attempt to move on, but instead, the memory of someone else isn’t quite done being remembered yet.
Told with a delicate balance of wit and poignancy that lends itself to the more playful and direct British sense of humor, UK directors the Blaine brothers have transposed their own personal experience with loss into the lives of the two leads in Nina, the tragically hip Holly (Abigail Hardingham) and the disenfranchised Rob (Cian Barry). The two seem like a perfect match (even though Rob can’t seem to shake his blues away) until the night they decide to take their blossoming relationship to the next level, only to be interrupted by the bloody corpse of Rob’s ex-girlfriend. Actually, they never technically called it quits, and just because Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) is now dead, she can’t seem to accept that Rob is actually content to shack up with a younger, less sexually adept version of herself.
Covered in blood after Nina decides to join in on the fun, Holly must come to terms with the fact that she’ll have to deal with some serious baggage if she wants to see this thing through. This might sound like a good setup for a horror comedy – and the interactions with Nina are certainly funny – but the entire affair is much more subdued and sweetly tragic. The new couple and the Blaine brothers deal with the resurrection of Nina in the same way that you would cope with tragedy in real life: by dealing with the situation and not being afraid to see the humor in it.
O’Shaughnessy is perfectly cast as Nina, showing desperation in her eyes but constantly full of quips and sarcasm that she lashes out just to taunt her living counterparts. She’s broken after a violent crash that’s left her in limbo, unable to walk because of a snapped leg she places behind her as she poses painfully on beds, chairs, and even her own gravestone. The manner of contortions and writhing O’Shaughnessy does is commendable and makes the character of Nina all the more sympathetic.
But Nina Forever is really more about Holly, and Hardingham’s performance is bold. Unapologetically nude during a few bizarre scenes, her sexuality is on full display, and the fact that she’s in self-discovery mode helps justify why both lovers would continue to hook up even though it conjures up a dead woman. They simply can’t get enough of each other, and after seeing Hardingham as Holly, you probably won’t be able to get enough of her either.
Always slowly developing just enough to stay interesting, Nina Forever strikes a fairly unique balance in tone, never winking and becoming too ridiculous given the circumstances while also dealing with loss in a very genuine way. It’s also not a downer at all, and Nina’s appearances never outstay their welcome even though she certainly does by the end of the running time.