Review: Nocebo

Directed by Lorcan Finnegan and written by Garret Shanley, a fashion designer is suffering from a mysterious illness that puzzles her doctors and frustrates her husband, until help arrives in the form of a Filipino carer, who uses traditional folk healing to reveal a horrifying truth. Starring: Eva Green, Mark Strong, Chai Fonacier, Billie Gadsdon, Cathy Belton and Anthony Falcon.

When Nocebo opens there’s a quality to it that feels somewhere between In Fabric and 1970s horror, there’s a slick psychological feel to it. The colours are rich, it has a fondness for the artistic and dramatic metaphors. Its sharpness helps to push the atmosphere deeper, to build the tension and mystery. However, at a certain point it leans too far into that artistic side, it becomes a distraction rather than continuing to enhance the layers of the story. Lorcan Finnegan’s overall aesthetic is great but falling into that hole of over developing itself tends to undercut the prevailing tone by the end.

One of the most interesting things about the way that Garret Shanley’s story develops is that it gives you everything you could possibly need to know, long before the credits roll. While the two have absolutely nothing to do with one another, it feels similar to Glass Onion in how, if you’re paying enough attention, it gives away the entire plot. It’s a structure that has to be done well to work, to not become obvious but to pace it out just right to hand the clues to your viewers so you get that satisfying moment of having your suspicions confirmed. It has a great blend of mystery, heritage, folk remedies and a mythical touch, which are all topped with a political edge. It has its weaknesses but at the same time, holds your attention well, especially when Diana (Chai Fonacier) takes more of the limelight.

Chai Fonacier’s performance is good enough, and of the right tone, to be talked about in the same vein as Dolly De Leon in Triangle of Sadness. It’s powerful and intense with a deep burning dedication, she’s playing the long game and doing it beautifully. Eva Green does a great job of walking the line of privilege constantly switching from polite and thankful to spiteful and petty if something isn’t how she wants it. She also creates a huge vulnerability and fragility, which is a difficult thing to balance with that privilege but it works well. Billie Gadsdon gives a surprisingly good performance, it has all the typical markers of a child who initially rejects the new presence in her life but she brings her own spin and makes it especially convincing. Mark Strong is probably the most inside the box performance here, there isn’t a great deal asked of him, he’s stubborn and headstrong, bringing a lot of typical male traits which don’t massively influence the story.

Nocebo crafts a gripping mystery that lets you piece it together as you go long while you wait for the big reveal. It’s well shot, the aesthetic is rich and builds a superb tension. Eva Green gives another memorable performance and Chai Fonacier really takes the spotlight with a breakout portrayal of a fascinating character. Its only key weakness is getting lost within itself, going deep into its artistic side which takes away from its story, which by itself is captivating.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Streaming exclusively on Shudder from February 24

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