Into The Mirror (2018)

Into The Mirror first published by Sight & Sound, Jan 2020

Review: “Good work with the trans report last week, mate,” says bullying, predatory boss Harry (John Sackville) to Daniel (Jamie Bacon), a reserved employee who has only been in London for three months.

Harry is referring to a transfer account that Daniel has successfully secured, but his peculiar choice of phrase, and his insistence on addressing Daniel as “pretty boy”, puts the new recruit on edge – not least because Daniel, whose interest in a blonde woman on the Tube is restricted to her dress and makeup, is confused about his gender identity. Invited by his work colleague Blu (Beatrice May) to the club Lost & Found, Daniel spots cross-dressing Jennifer (Charles Streeter), and his own life enters a transition.

Written by Bacon and Streeter, Lois Stevenson’s Into The Mirror is a coming-out story refashioned as Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, with Daniel’s weekend jaunts of self-discovery becoming a journey into a subconscious maze of fears and desires, fuelled by memories of his late mother. The neon lights of the nightclub soon infect the rest of the film (even as its synth pop infiltrates the film’s score), transforming London’s nocturnal streets into a giallo-esque psychological space of disorientation (and even horror-style stalking in the dark). The tunnels of the London underground through which Daniel commutes by day soon blend into the stone passageways under the club – a labyrinth in which young Daniel struggles to find himself and emerge anew, amidst a community of like-minded individuals who recognise him better than he himself does and welcome what he is becoming. 

Though relatively short, Into The Mirror traces Daniel’s crucial rites of passage, as he reconciles himself with his estranged father (Carl Russell), and changes for the first time into a dress and a different person. The film also changes its form, shifting from opening scenes of relative naturalism (with even childhood flashbacks presented as home video footage, complete with time codes) to something altogether more abstract and oneiric, in a neat visual and narrative encoding of the transition from straight to queer. What the film lacks, though, for all its fabulous stylisations and trippy excursions, is any kind of characterisation that goes beyond the merely superficial.

Synopsis: New to London, lost office worker Daniel goes to the Lost & Found club with work colleague Blu, and finds his identity in transvestism, while confronting hidden anxieties and desires from his past. 

Anton Bitel