Evie (2021)

Evie had its world première at FrightFest 2021

Evie begins and ends at the shoreline – that liminal zone where solid land and fluid sea meet and shape each other in waves and cycles of eternal change. There, under a grey sky, young, pre-pubescent Evie Halloran (the excellent Honey Lundy, in her first rôle) is with her slightly older brother Tony (Danny-Lee Mitchell-Brunt, also very good, in a smaller rôle) and their mother Jen – the children played respectively by the actual children of the film’s co-writers/co-directors Dominic Brunt and Jamie Lundy, while their mother is played by Danny-Lee’s actual mother Joanne Mitchell, and Lundy’s other daughter and his fiancée Mel Wayman also make appearances. In other words, this is – not unlike John and Zelda Adams and Toby Poser’s The Deeper You Dig (2019) and Hellbender (2021) – one of those works in which actual (filmmaking) families get to play-act nightmarish domestic dysfunction, coloured by myth and genre.

Left on the stony beach while Jen goes to their nearby home to prepare dinner, inquisitive, assertive Evie briefly wanders off, following the sound of faint whispers past an apparently inhabited cave (we sees a figure moving inside) to a necklace with a strange sigil on it. From this moment Evie, still in her formative years, changes. For, armed with the necklace and forcefully keeping it from others, this sweet little girl suddenly becomes a problem child – rude, wilful, aggressive, violent. She walks out on the weekly sermons given by local priest Father Robert (Michael Smiley), and attacks her fellow pupils – earning herself the nickname ‘freaky Evie’, and upsetting, even alarming, parents Jen and Gil (Liam McMahon).

Holli Dempsey as the adult Evie, retracing a forgotten past

Cut to 23 years later, and Evie (Holli Dempsey) works at a call centre for an insurance company. Unmoored from her family, Evie has been through a succession of foster and care homes in her teens, and has even been sectioned, but got through it all, and now leads a life of loneliness staved off in part by addictive displacement activities which bring little real satisfaction. For like waves buffeting the shore, Evie’s serial drinking and dating may collectively help define her, but barely make any individual dent in eroding her rough edges. Evie reconnects unexpectedly with her brother Tony (Jay Taylor), a gruff, intense man who has recently moved back into the old family home on the coast. He is a self-published fantasy author, whose novel The Selkie he claims was inspired by Evie’s obsession with the therianthropic creatures as a child. 

Evie is asked repeatedly, by both Tony and Father Robert, if she remembers what, decades earlier, happened on the beach and tore the Halloran family apart – and the film keeps switching from the grounded present to fluctuating, unreliable flashbacks, all circling a traumatic incident that is romanticised, distorted, edited and mythologised. Evie unfolds in a realist mode familiar from Brunt’s earlier Before Dawn (2012) and Bait (2015) – if perhaps not his more recent Attack of the Adult Babies (2017) – but beneath its surface, fantasy (or at least delusion) lurks. In the final ten minutes, everything comes together as, floating on the waters far from the firmness of the shore, a monster sheds its guise and the truth is revealed. It is a scenario which, for all the naturalism of the Yorkshire setting, ultimately lets the folkloric and the supernatural wash up hard against the psychological. 

strap: In Dominic Brunt and Jamie Lundy’s hybrid domestic tragedy, the folkloric and the supernatural wash up against the psychological. 

© Anton Bitel