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
South by Southwest Sends in the Clowns
South by Southwest Sends in the Clowns
Pamela Adlon, Frank Oz, John Leguizamo, and more for Comedy Festival

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 28, 2024

South by Southwest Film Wrapping Up With <i>The Idea of You</i>
South by Southwest Film Wrapping Up With The Idea of You
Michael Showalter’s new romance stars Anne Hathaway

Richard Whittaker, Jan. 30, 2024

More by Jessi Cape
Review: Nômadé Is a Tropical Dining Destination
Review: Nômadé Is a Tropical Dining Destination
Experience a melting pot of flavors at this Yucatán-inspired oasis

Feb. 9, 2024

Uchibā Is Serving Vintage With a Twist
Uchibā Is Serving Vintage With a Twist
Review: Sushi, scallops, and surprises from the newest Uchi offshoot in Downtown

Feb. 2, 2024

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
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

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