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Paint It Black Review

Paint It Black is a drama about a young woman who attempts to deal with the death of her boyfriend while continuously confronted by his mentally unstable mother.

Now on VOD, Amber Tamblyn‘s Paint It Black is a dark and somber experience from the debut director and already accomplished actress, a deeply exploratory film of disturbing visuals and complicated relationships. It’s never very sure where we are meant to be in all of it, challenging us as participants to consider just exactly what it means, and yet it’s hypnotic, symbolic and almost impossible to look away.

Josie (Alia Shawkat) is struck with devastating news one morning, a detective on the other end informing her that a body has been found and her name was discovered in his possession. Turns out, he’s her boyfriend Michael (Rhys Wakefield), having committed suicide, unexpectedly. The next call is from Michael’s mother Meredith (Janet McTeer), who asks a bitter question, and worse, when Josie attends the funeral, the woman attacks her. Soon however, a twisted relationship binds the two, each suffering their loss like torture as they search for the reasons for why Michael did what he did and how they are to move on from it.

The women of Paint It Black are of extreme contrasts, the refined, eccentric, and dignified Meredith, a professional concert pianist the polar opposite of tattooed, multi-colored haired Josie who sometimes works as an artist’s nude model. This last bit is how Michael and Josie met, him seen only in brief flashbacks, and we get a sense of how impactful he was on her, the two instantly flung into each other’s worlds. We discover that Meredith knows little of her son or at least everything he’s become since meeting Josie, and the film steadily falls into a controlled chaos as the two clearly unstable women battle for rights over the memory of Michael.

Tamblyn creates a nightmarish vision of loss, dipping into histrionics with great purpose, using shadow and color, noise and music to keep us constantly off balance. While the woman are antagonistic with each other, there develops a sort of symbiotic madness about them and Tamblyn uses arresting visuals in bringing their collision to brutal, unnerving impact, slowly revealing truths about who these women are and where they come from. It lingers in quasi-horror for a bit, especially when inside the cavernous walls of Meredith’s dark mansion where the older woman has spent her life in control of everything, though has lost it all. It’s a spiral she’s not handling well.

Both Shawkat and McTeer are mesmerizing, yet it’s Tamblyn’s focused storytelling and dreamy directorial style that keep this so watchable. She has great trust in the audience, allowing long moments of action to unfold with hardly a word, using jarring, emotional, complex imagery that challenges us to consider the pain these women have. It’s not a film with answers but one of questions. And they are one’s you will think about long after it’s over.

Paint It Black Review

Movie description: Paint It Black is a drama about a young woman who attempts to deal with the death of her boyfriend while continuously confronted by his mentally unstable mother.

Director(s): Amber Tamblyn

Actor(s): Alia Shawkat, Alfred Molina, Janet McTeer

Genre: Drama

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