Tag Archives: Eva Fraser

Bloom and Decay

She Watches Blindly

by Eva Fraser

She Watches Blindly, written and directed by Bryan Tran, invites us into a paranoia-tinged world of magical realism. Trapped by her ability to sense people’s thoughts, Beth Abrams (Emily Dunlop) lives surrounded by the lies of others, encased in a floral patterned tomb reminiscent of the Charlotte Perkins Gilman novella, The Yellow Wallpaper. This unsubtle concept of female hysteria medicated by isolation anchors many narratives, fueled by the frequent misunderstanding of women’s issues.

But, in this film, misunderstanding progresses into acceptance through one character: Dr. Abbott (Rick Andosca). Andosca’s conveyance of complex emotion through a grounded and thoughtful performance makes you believe in Beth even when she’s at her worst. She Watches Blindly complicates the narrative around mental illness, stepping outside its “thriller” label to introduce empathy.

There was no slacking in the mise-en-scène of the film. Everything feels intentional: the lighting, the color green, the heart imagery, the cloying floral patterns, the scattered toys that seem just a little creepy, and the clutter that comes with a lived-in house. This film was made to feel real — terrifyingly so— and it pays off. 

Visuals and sound collaborate to create an environment of reflection. In a film about mirroring observed behaviors, this seems pretty appropriate. When Beth is in her head or listening to others, the audience can always tell: a vignette is repeatedly introduced, narrowing the scene with black fuzzy edges; the audio also becomes muffled, echoing the undertones of dialogue. She Watches Blindly allows us to feel what it might be like to be Beth.

Surveillance becomes a cinematic theme, initiated by Beth’s husband Earl (Justin Torrence) and Dr. Abbott, but handled most masterfully by Beth. There are so many empty shots in the film: the vacant hallway outside the nursery, the curtain to Beth’s room, and the stairway in between. These spaces appear frequently, but with slightly different lighting each time. Tran creates suspense through this emptiness and lulling background noise. These little moments of emptiness reveal a more sinister undertone—we are being watched, too. 

Masterful in its presentation and storytelling, She Watches Blindly is a thriller with heart, fostering community out of tragedy.

A Quest for Vengeance

Queen Rising

by Eva Fraser

Sometimes the most intriguing part of a mystery is deciphering the power at play in every interaction. Queen Rising establishes a precedent of this power for the main character, Madison (April Hale), who must relive her past and her memories of the “college slayings” in order to save her family home. 

The film alternates between past and present with flashbacks to Madison’s childhood and collegiate life. These flashbacks boost the film’s emotional intensity, director Princeton James collaborating with the cinematography to create parallels that transcend time. These flashbacks and the formulaic plot structure helped to create a mostly entertaining and suspenseful 90 minutes.

However, many aspects of Queen Rising didn’t quite click. The acting was mediocre. The characters and the film itself lacked depth. Even Madison, who we have to analyze because she is the protagonist, feels superficial. Queen Rising would have benefitted from more character perspectives. 

Madison talks to herself in a few scenes, all that dialogue simply delivering background information to give us some insight into her character. But everything is too straightforward and obvious. 

If the film is supposed to be a mystery, why could I predict the end from the very beginning?

Regardless of its predictability, the plot, although simple, provides a commentary on childhood trauma and the dangers of idolization. Queen Rising does have a point, but it gets muddled in the clichés, loopholes, and corniness of a soapy teen TV show.

James’s film, written by Allison Chaney and Henry E. Reaves III, has the makings of an intriguing film with its gritty premise and flashbacks, but falls short in some of the most basic of areas.

Journey to Found Family

Queen Tut

by Eva Fraser

Raw and full of representation, Queen Tut is a heartwarming film that makes you feel. Directed by Reem Morsi, it centers on Nabil (Ryan Ali), a young man from Egypt who moves to Toronto. After his chance encounter with Malibu (Alexandra Billings) outside her club, a safe haven for the LGBTQIA+ community, Nabil begins a journey to find where he truly belongs, realizing his true self through drag. 

Comfortable being itself, this film feels real. It doesn’t try to perfect life; it is unfiltered in the best way possible. The effortless intricacies present in the lead performances,— the awkward pauses and subsequent misunderstandings, and the gentle moments in between— fully immerse the audience in the story of a queer community fighting for their rights and fully realizing them at the same time.

Additionally, the makeup and costumes for characters both in and out of drag feel instinctually right, mimicking life in a way that doesn’t seek perfection and instead embraces the quirks that make us human.

The use of color creates a visual aid: Nabil’s home is filled with neutral tones and grays, while Malibu’s club is teeming with vibrancy. Fabric also plays a central role in Nabil’s character development, and the film takes such care to make every scrap special and charged with meaning— whether through flashbacks or a simple close-up of shimmering sequins in Nabil’s hands, the audience can feel the significance. Through simple yet effective devices, QueenTut lets us develop a strong sense of empathy for the narratives of many characters.

Religion heavily features in the film, looming in the background as a ceaseless pressure in Nabil’s life. Although overbearing in certain settings, it is also a key to Nabil’s growth and acceptance of himself. Queen Tut shows us that religion doesn’t have to be interpreted in one way— it can be whatever best serves us. 

One aspect of the film that did not quite click was the pacing. At points, time felt unclear and disorienting. This doesn’t detract from the viewing experience too much. Time can be tricky in life, ebbing and flowing with different emotions and situations, and Queen Tut, although perhaps not intentionally, acknowledges it.

All aspects of the film contribute to the central idea of community as a family that you choose— one that is accepting and grounded in the face of change. This film welcomes the audience into its family, leaving viewers with a sense of hope and self-acceptance.