A unfairly fate-rigged sibling rivalry has forced twin sisters, Juliet (Sydney Sweeney from The Handmaid’s Tale and Sharp Object) and Vivian (Madison Iseman from the new Jumanji franchise and Annabelle Comes Home), into an unhealthy sisterhood. Living almost exclusively under her sister’s shadow for her entire life, the former is driven into the brink of sanity. In a desperate time, desperate measure, she discovers an unlikely help—a force larger and darker than her ambition.
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Vivian, the older of the twin, has always been a prodigy with advanced ventures socially and sexually. Meanwhile, Juliet is the underachiever, who might have never known that music is probably not her forte but never dares to reflect that possibility in her mind. The latter spends her entire life only to catch up on her sister’s ever-growing talent, which she barely manages. She sacrifices just about everything—her social, sexual, and actual life. However, recent death of a talented classmate has altered the equation. Juliet retrieves the deceased student’s notebook and discovers cryptic, infernal imageries that might have been an answer she’s looking for to overthrown her sister from the top.
Set in an art school scene, Nocturne‘s premise immediately reminds us to Aronofsky’s Black Swan. This one, however, throws the rivalry out between piano sheets and disconcerting symphony with a more popcorn approach and diabolical elements—hinting on Faustian bargains. Similar to other entries in Welcome to the Blumhouse anthology, this psychological thriller written and directed by Zu Quirke seems to envelope blatant shoutouts to acclaimed works of the recent and wear it on the sleeves. The story gets compelling with mix-and-match of numerous harrowing elements stitched together in a barely original story; but, such a Frankenstein method would have taken a toll eventually.
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Following the big leap in Utopia, Sweeney bears the cross to make Nocturne works. In portraying a character whose life has always been in the background, she knows better that a voiced performance might not be of the best interest. Her subtlety, however, communicates the character quite eloquently in articulating out the silent jealousy and repressed ambition. Regrettably, the script is hiccuped with inconsistencies. In one moment, Sweeney’s eyes tells us just perfectly of what’s been going on in her mind. Some other time, she spits her whole backstories out during a scene high on sexual tension with her mentor—an uncomfortable element that could have been digged better in the process.
The compelling narrative mostly staggers with its constant battle against cliches. And yet, the demonic ambiguity where the movie has been leading to is highly rewarding for those paying attention. The final imagery is baffling, but what it implies feels more poignant than the whole plot is. Whether or not Juliet makes the bargain with the devil or whether it’s been the mind trick all along would be the final question. As for the answer, we are left to stick with what we believe.