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

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
Sound and Vision: The Meow Wolf/Spatial Connection
Sound and Vision: The Meow Wolf/Spatial Connection
Did SXSW give a preview of the technology behind the next portal?

Richard Whittaker, April 14, 2022

MSNBC Gets Behind the Story of <i>Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets</i>
MSNBC Gets Behind the Story of Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets
New documentary talks to the people who bought Gamestop shares

Ikram Mohamed, April 8, 2022

More by Jessi Cape
Gardeners and Librarians Join Forces to Catalog Seeds
Gardeners and Librarians Join Forces to Catalog Seeds
Seed banking on the future

April 22, 2022

Tips for Starting Your Seed Collection
Tips for Starting Your Seed Collection
Home gardener Jennymarie Jemison shows you how to save seeds

April 22, 2022

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

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

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle