SXSW Film Review: 'I Believe In Unicorns'
A story of teenage romance, glittered and marred
By Jessi Cape,
9:31AM, Wed. Mar. 12, 2014
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