– By Stephen Harper
“It’s a man’s man’s man’s world” the James Brown song states, and unfortunately for detective Rebecca Faraway it clearly is in directors’ Andy Collier & Tor Mian’s debut feature CHARISMATA.
Faraway is thrust into the world of homicide and a male dominated workforce as she’s assigned her first serial killer case alongside partner Eli Smith. Rising to the role of detective has only hindered Faraway as others believe she’s not arrived there on merit, but because of her Chief Superintendent father. She’s constantly having to prove herself and stand her ground under the torrent of abuse and chauvinist views of her colleagues. Faraway is clearly miserable. Even though she loves her role, the environment she works in is clearly taking its toll as she attends regular therapy sessions and is under medication. Once bodies start piling up in a satanic, ritualistic fashion Faraway’s mind starts to deteriorate and affect her welfare even more.
CHARISMATA could be totally metaphorical for issues such as discrimination, bullying, stress or mental health. If so then I commend it totally, but if it’s a movie about a woman being slowly possessed or cursed by satanic forces it unfortunately fails. Reason being the first two acts are pretty good, in fact apart from a few dodgy performances here and there it kind of comes off as quite humorous. Faraway’s colleagues come across as chauvinistic, bumbling idiots who are more determined to roast each other than do any proper police work. It’s so surreal in tone that it’s actually funny to watch. Faraway is the only person who is strictly deadpan in performance, so I wasn’t sure if it was a black comedy at first?
Playing against her is hard-nosed partner Eli Smith (Andonis Anthony). He does get involved in the roasting, but his portrayal is fantastic. I’d go as far to say he was slightly under used, as he has a great charisma about him and I felt he needed a more meaty story to play against.
Once satanic bad guy Michael Sweet turns up, played superbly by Jamie Satterthwaite, as a sort of evil yuppie meets smiling Cheshire Cat, things certainly become interesting. Faraway’s strange visions become increasingly horrifying as she becomes more and more obsessed with Sweet. By the end of act two we’ve had humorous dialogue, a raunchy, surreal sex scene and a police procedural mixed with the occult, so far so good. Unfortunately the trap CHARISMATA falls into is similar to endless horror films nowadays; the story wears thin and CGI creeps in. I honestly feel filmmakers use it kind of like a protective blanket, but this film didn’t need it, it was doing so well beforehand and should have had faith in what was built previously in characterization to push through until the end.
All in all CHARISMATA is a pretty fun watch, especially in its first two acts. There were some really nice visuals and excellent dialogue to chew on. Faraway (Sarah Beck Mather) is great in the leading role, as are all the leading performances and considering it’s Collier & Mian’s first directorial feature they’ve done a splendid job.