Written and directed by Matthew Kyle Levine, while alone on vacation, a young woman becomes obsessed with an online therapy video. Starring: Victoria Astuto, Eve Austin and Jamie MacDonald.
When you’re dealing with a story that’s simple in a physical sense but complex emotionally, the way that you explore it through the direction is always going to be key to making it work. If there’s no reliance on dialogue and social interaction, the visual has to set the atmosphere and Matthew Kyle Levine achieves that with Trusted Hands. Particularly because he plays into that simplicity, there’s a lot of long, still shots which are almost reminiscent of a slow cinema style. By using all that extra space and quiet, it pushes the viewers to ask questions. It enhances the curiosity and encourages you to pay attention to the detail, creating a mystery element. It also does well to lean into the psychological theme of the story, topping it with a score that almost feels like a 1980s sci-fi styled horror is a clever touch. A choice that boosts the feeling of isolation, anxiety and the hint of a breakdown.
Pairing that with Victoria Astuto’s performance as our lone protagonist, she brings the coldness that comes with a mental struggle. It’s not a loneliness but a limbo, the feeling that comes with not being able to move forward, to break through a mental wall. In that sense it can be interpreted in a lot of different ways, making it inherently accessible. There’s a fatigue and ennui to her presence, attempting to refresh her mental space with this therapy but still feeling the struggle. Jamie MacDonald’s recitation and performance of the therapy slash narration is an interesting choice. It makes a bold first impression, his voice is very deep as is typically used as a soothing tone. It has a difficult to define quality, it works and what makes that surprising is there’s also a certain level of disconnect from the visual. The two work together while also being separate.
The only moment which doesn’t quite fit with the feel of the film is when it takes a turn for the erotic, it’s brief but it does alter the tone. Looking at it as a whole, the sexual component does fit with that theme of obsession and becoming unhealthily attached to something but it doesn’t strike the right note to match the rest of the film. It’s something that potentially might have been less harsh of a transition if there were hints or background to it earlier on in the film. It’s the only thing holding it back from having a superb consistency and growth to the story. It might not give the amount of detail everyone is looking for but it’s a sincerely thought out choice rather than it being missing.
Trusted Hands plays with your curiosity and imagination, going down a psychological road and asking viewers to put the pieces together themselves. We may not learn a lot about Victoria Astuto’s Allison but her performance gives you plenty to work with and enhances the layered, intriguing atmosphere to the film. Keeping it so open allows for a fascinating amount of interpretation, eventually it veers off course which alters the mysterious, unusual and captivating tone that it creates. Regardless, it’s a unique blend of elements, set in a great location and is strong enough to present only a relatively small level of detail to the story and still be able to stand on its own with ease.