Paint It Black (2016)


At the centre of Paint It Black is a symbiotic relationship between two women; Josie, a twenty-something whose boyfriend has just committed suicide, and Meredith, the boyfriend’s mother; a hateful resentful woman who seems determined to both destroy and possess Josie. Embodied by a pair of remarkable actresses – Alia Shawkat and Janet McTeer – the various, heated tête-à-tête’s between both women are full of feminine fire and brimstone. It’s a vivd and complex portrait of grief seen through the prism of two generational points of view. A lot of movies use a suicide as a jumping off point for psychological drama, but this feels fresh. It is skewed from a different angle.

Coloured with shades of neon-noir and gothy horror, director and co-writer Amber Tamblyn serves up an impressive debut. The expansive mansion at the heart of the film is like something out of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, full of bric-a-brac and boasting a drawing room with a roaring fire. The whole thing looks suitably tarnished and autumnal, as if furnished from props and costumes sourced from a vintage emporium. Tamblyn does succumb to “music video” filmmaking a few times too often – meaning we get a lot of woozy montages edited to music that lack an emotional anchor or especially revelatory imagery – but they don’t decrease the overall effect too drastically. This is the kind of film that feels like a hangover, and I mean that as a compliment. I absolutely adore Alia Shawkat too so any film that puts her in a leading role is immediately on my wavelength.

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