SXSW Film Review: 'I Believe In Unicorns'

A story of teenage romance, glittered and marred

Birthday cupcakes and old photographs begin this teenage love story, but a whirlwind road trip to escape less-than-ideal backgrounds illuminates heartache ahead.

Davina (Natalia Dyer) inhabits a world that fluctuates between unicorn dreamland and the stark reality of a teenager solely responsible for her chronically ill mother’s daily care. Sparks fly when she meets charming older guy Sterling (Peter Vack) at the skate park, and the pair bond instantly, body and soul, in rebellion and idealistic explorations of self, love, and sexuality.

Writer and director Leah Meyerhoff builds a world (partially inspired by her own life) brimming with magic and decorated by fascinating stop-motion animation. As Sterling’s facade cracks and his emotional festering becomes dangerous, dragons enter Davina’s Easter-egg-colored fantasy. She begins a transformation from ethereal forest nymph to warrior, as portrayed by interesting and theatrical cutaway sequences. Even with the layers of imagination, the film’s authenticity sustains itself because of Meyerhoff’s creative attention to detail and the small cast’s top-notch acting. When what initially feels poetic reveals itself as abusive – a difficult plot to pull off – Meyerhoff’s story gives the young female lead the freedom to feel conflicted between forehead kisses and bullying, but ultimately – and refreshingly – the strength to take a stand for her own happiness.

I Believe In Unicorns

Narrative Competition, World Premiere
Thursday, March 13, 2pm, Rollins

More South by Southwest
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
David Chang announced as featured speaker

Brandon Watson, Sept. 30, 2014

Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
'Honeymoon' and 'Thank You a Lot' picked up

Monica Riese, March 28, 2014

More by Jessi Cape
Austin Film Festival Review: <i>The Big Spoon</i>
AFF Review: The Big Spoon
Love lost and found in this bittersweet local feature

Oct. 18, 2016

Louisiana Kreutz's <i>Quaker Oaths</i>
Louisiana Kreutz's Quaker Oaths
How a running joke turned into a quirky comedy

Oct. 14, 2016


South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, I Believe In Unicorns, World Premiere, Narrative Features, review, Leah Meyerhoff

AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)