There’s something to be said about the eternal bond of siblings. As an only child, this humble schmoe has always pondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister to share a life with. To be connected by blood. To experience your lives together by learning, growing, striving, and having each other’s backs through thick and thin. To the point that whatever transpires in both of your respective lives, and whatever paths you may or may not take in regards to it, that connection never falters or dissipates. Even beyond death, depending on your beliefs. The love remaining throughout it all. What a wonderful, transcendent existence that would be, ya know? Which is why it’s amazing to see siblings that embody every aspect of that…completely and irrevocably…and an unmitigated shame when you see those who don’t have that, opting to act like strangers or enemies instead of family. The kind of family that so many take for granted. If they only knew what they possessed. If only.
Anyway, that aforementioned familial connection is showcased swimmingly alongside loss and devastation in When I Consume You (2021); A gritty, seedy, unfocused film that travels down some interesting yet bewildering roads. As the story goes, in the vast yet isolating streets of New York, siblings Wilson (Evan Dumouchel) and Daphne (Libby Ewing) are trying to rebuild their lives after suffering the effects of addiction and psychological destruction. While she’s trying to land a job that can get the ball rolling on the next chapter, he is trying to gain some independence and strength.
Despite their rocky childhoods and the fickle universe presently not handing them a break, the duo nevertheless depend on each other for encouragement, a dose of reality, and most of all, keeping each other grounded and tranquil in a harsh and cold world. Sadly, the struggle to rise up together is rather short lived when they discover that something is following them. Something Daphne understands but Wilson does not, and before either of them can move forward with their lives, they have to determine just what it is and overcome before they’re consumed. But, is it actually real or simply their troubled past and traumas catching up to them?
Right off the bat, writer/director Perry Blackshear of They Look Like People (2015) and The Siren (2019) fame, casts one of the most uneasy shadows you can imagine. Each relative shot and transition is equal parts serene and jaunty. Altered and cryptic. Almost like you’re dreaming and repeatedly being jolted awake, just to fall asleep again. Before anything officially transpires, you can already tell something is relectively…off. Then, once the shit hits the fan, all the pieces get scrambled repeatedly again to the point of utter confusion before slooooowly getting put back into place in the most unexpected ways…or not, depending on your perspective. Such is the nature of this beast.
Blackshear has a real talent for building an increasingly debatable atmosphere, for us and these characters. Going in blind helps with the viewing because it’s a marvelously tricky film. One that keeps you perplexed and in knots till the end…and genuinely stirs you on the directions it goes with its discombobulated story. A bit daunting of a task if you’re not in the mood, but if so, and you just give into its displaced style of storytelling, it’ll show you something rather intriguing. Or it won’t. Again, such is its nature.
And while predicting just where the story is going, what undoubtedly keeps the entire proceeding anchored is our brother/sister relationship between Daphne and Wilson. The both of them couldn’t be anymore different, and on the surface their characters could’ve been demonstrably one-note, yet Blackshear provides both of them with genuine personality, while Dumouchel and Ewing work well together in not only establishing their relationship but keeping that chemistry strong, even amongst the story’s more imprecise moments. Plus separately with every stare and mannerism, the duo are able to convey just how damaged and broken they are, yet possessing a resiliency against their internal and external demons. You simply believe the bond is there thanks to their performances, making this journey something that allows them to discover so much about their past and present together, which leads to a few revelations and sacrifices that are heartbreaking to witness. And the backdrop of the foggy city in all its darkness and dingy-ness as well as the haunting score, it truly drives everything home in a tragic but semi-uplifting way.
I might need to rewatch this down the line because it’s one of those films that requires it, just to decipher and mesh more with what you witnessed. BUT as it stands, this was a surprise. Despite being rather rough, dim, and wacky, at its helm, this story is one of courage and connection. And a hell of an eccentric trip, ready for viewer consumption..
When I Consume You (2021) is playing as part of the Fantasia Festival – https://fantasiafestival.com/fr/film/when-i-consume-you
Review written by Marcus Wilturner