Reviews Short Narrative

See Me Now (2019) – 2.5 stars

Director: Elliot Gaynon

Writer: Elliot Gaynon

Cast: Emma Wise, David Griffin

Running time: 8mins

For more information on See Me Now, visit IMDb.

Perhaps the most important ingredients for a stylised psychological thriller are a protagonist and antagonist who can match each other’s energy levels. Jodie Foster’s performance in The Silence of the Lambs is a key example of this; while Anthony Hopkins chews the scenery as the infamous Hannibal Lecter, if Foster had failed to give him something substantial to bounce of, his Oscar-winning performance would have come across as pure ham.

You can see how badly Foster’s “sharp-faced intensity” would have been missed in this case by revisiting the flabby, un-engaging follow-ups Hannibal and Red Dragon. Without Foster’s Agent Starling to call Dr Lecter’s more self-indulgent qualities into question, Hopkins’ performance comes across as a preening bore; the kind of pseudo-intellect who determines to prove his is more worldly than everyone else in the room, by rolling out unwelcome anecdotes about his road-trip to discover ‘the real Tuscany’, or his culinary exploits in Asia.

See Me Now is, for the most part, a perfectly serviceable thriller, in which a stalker appears to get his comeuppance at the hands of his long-tormented victim. It has one fatal flaw, however, and that is a glaring lack of symmetry between the two actors. Having been apparently bombarded with thousands of threatening messages, the ordeal has driven Christine (Emma Wise) to the very brink. Adrian (David Griffin) thinks he has finally broken down the woman he “truly loves” when she concedes to going on a date with him – only for his quarry to flip the script on him, subduing him and tying him to a chair in her kitchen.

Wise is brilliant as the unravelling Christine; a woman who just wants to lead a normal life, but increasingly accepts that this may have been denied her, so the next best thing may simply be to stop her stalker hurting others. As a result, the peaks and troughs of both her sadness and rage are entirely relatable to the audience; she strikes a keen balance between acting in a way we could see ourselves behaving, and emoting theatrically enough to still startle us.

The problem is that Griffin does not match these unpredictable fluctuations of energy. The plot hinges upon his actions; Christine’s current state goes a long way to illustrating just how monstrously this man must have behaved, but Adrian is a largely one-note character. The person he professes to ‘love’ is accusing him of ruining her life, and yet his response is to quietly brand her “ungrateful,” and lightly laugh.

This makes it seem as though Writer-Director Elliot Gaynon hasn’t quite sorted his film’s footing out; if he intended to make a stylised thriller, as Wise’s performance as Christine suggests, then he needed to get more out of Griffin as Adrian. His character lacks the potent charisma or bleary-eyed paranoia required of the role, either he needs to be a kind of cult leader convinced of his own shtick, or he needs to be the kind of twitchy insectoid who could infuriatingly defy any security measure his victims deployed.

Above all, Adrian needs to care about the unfolding dialogue – and as we are told he has invested significant time and effort in his harassment of Christine, theoretically we know he does care. Practically, however, we are delivered a ‘monster’ who seems visibly bored by the accusations levelled at him by his supposed true love. It comes across as though he is an internet troll who was simply looking to provoke someone for their amusement – a distinctly different type of odious entity to the one Christine seems to see him as.

The film’s slightly botched ending only serves to highlight this. The problem with delivering a story like this in less than eight minutes is that filmmakers are impelled to tie things up and deliver their audiences closure, for better or worse. An ambiguous ending here would have been much more satisfactory than discovering this was all essentially Christine’s own fantasy. But if this is the case, then shouldn’t her abuser be a much more threatening, omnipotent presence on screen? The absence of a more sinister, animated or amused monster in this case not only seems to leave Wise’s Christine somewhat out on a limb in terms of her performance, but surely contradicts the entire set-piece in this case.

The technical aspects of See Me Now are all present and correct, while Wise’s performance carries the film to heights it would not otherwise have climbed. However, a lack of on-screen chemistry and a seemingly under-directed performance from her co-star leaves the overall piece light on a much needed injection of menace.

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