From the opening wedding-dress striptease to the magical final-frame reversal, Todd Verow’s tale of a woman who “left” (“but I never said how”) is a cinematic gem.
It’s all too rare that the camera and music combine not only to reinforce the narrative but become important characters on their own.
Using purposely-grainy, black-and-white footage (beautifully stylized for all manner of water and lights), accompanied by synthetic music (James Dwyer’s frequently minimalist original score fits every scene like a call-girl’s G string) to connote Leena (with one important exception) is a masterstroke of craft. The remaining colour sequences—leisurely paced—are convincingly punctuated by four songs from Heather Nova whose lyrics (“I need a stranger to tell me I’m beautiful”) and varied accompaniments keep the ear engaged even as the mind works through the unfolding scenario. “Let’s not Talk About Love” says and shows it all as the near-mythical world of Leena serves to inspire a last entry in another’s deeply personal journal.
Better still, at key junctures (especially the upscale hotel self-administered sex-for-hire scene) employing silence and extreme close-ups raises the temperature of the film, its stars and viewers.
The cast is also first-rate. Wendy Delorme as The Final Girl drives much of the plot and all of the sex. Obviously comfortable in her tattoo-enhanced skin, she devours the role (and her partners) with an excellent sense of movement, timing and glances that speak volumes.
Brenda Velez silently brings the missing Leena to enigmatic life, effectively miming the private entries as The Final Girl (who takes over Leena’s room after she suddenly vanishes from sight) reads through the left-behind journal. As the production progresses, we are left to wonder if the distraught, abandoned soul really is a murderer, liar and/or bitch—depends who you ask and what you think you see.
Delighted to accept a bit of bondage, spanking and orgasmic scream as a security deposit, Judy Minx plays the role of the landlord with a good mix of sensuality and simmering desire. As with all other characters, her last act on screen raises just as many questions as it answers.
In the smaller parts, Véronique Lindeberg is a marvel of drunken confusion, unstoppably drawn back to her ex-girlfriend’s digs only to be met by a diary diver who appears to be equally smitten just by the detailed account of a sinking life: misery loves company all around.
Pascale Ourbih has just the right tone of pathetic-need, easily affording to pay for another woman’s favours, yet unable to personally savour the proffered flesh except as voyeur.
Not coincidentally, Verow makes frequent use of staircases, escalators, elevators and even a ladder to move his characters from encounter to encounter. That multi-level approach is at one with the deeply layered result, right up to the final journey which may very well lead to a reunion with the absent object of so many affections. JWR