Stunning cinematography and solid performances are enough to underscore some of the shortcomings.
Teenagers can be incredibly frustrating, but maybe much of this frustration comes from knowing that we were once the same. Perhaps this is why Everlasting—a story centered around two teenagers—can be both relatable and compelling. It manages this in spite of our personal grievances and despite our insistence that we know better. There are certainly shortcomings to be found, but Everlasting is in itself a tale about remembering—and valuing—the positive over the negative, and perhaps it’s not a stretch for the film to ask the same of its critics.
At the very beginning, we are told by Matt (Adam David) that his girlfriend Jessie (Valentina de Angelis) has been murdered. The plot is straightforward enough from here, with a search for answers being the main driving force for our young protagonist. As Matt begins by providing their background story, we learn that he and Jessie are troubled high school students with only one source of true happiness: their love for each other. They spend their aesthetically gothic days fantasizing about death and throwing caution to the wind, and it’s only too obvious they believe themselves invincible, as teenagers often do. Jessie in particular is shown to be overly attracted to a darker lifestyle, intensely absorbed in the escape it offers her. When she decides to follow her dreams of becoming a model, Matt has no choice but to be supportive, reluctant as he is to lose her. The two drive to opportunity-laden L.A. from their hometown of Denver, with Matt using their trip as an opportunity to create a project for his film class. But after Jessie’s death, this project takes on a drastically different shape, thus becoming the story of Matt’s journey to find her killer. Told in a non-linear cumulation of his footage from both trips as well as moments of third party voyeurism, Everlasting works towards a resolution whilst keeping a strong footing on the subject of love.
Though the story may not be groundbreaking—and is undoubtedly a commentary on how such events happen all too often in real life—Everlasting manages to carve a space for itself by taking a more human approach than most. Matt states that he does not want Jessie to become just another name in a list, and the film tries its absolute hardest to ensure this doesn’t happen. Instead, Matt (as our main storyteller) painstakingly attempts to provide a complete picture of Jessie as he knew and loved her; while this does serve to create an emotional attachment for the audience, it also inadvertently highlights a lack of substance to Jessie’s character. We are provided with fleeting reasons for her often concerning behaviour and personality, such as being raised by a single mother whose own behaviour is far from perfect, but without delving into this relationship further it is hard to ascertain exactly why Jessie is so attracted to the darkness of life. As such, her “tortured soul” identity ends up feeling somewhat superficial. Matt, on the other hand, is clearly given more thought and nuance, and becomes much more cemented in our minds as a sympathetic figure.
Interestingly, many of the less central characters grab the audience’s attention and hold elements of intrigue, and this is largely due to sincere acting by more than a few cast members. Elizabeth Röhm must be mentioned for her heartbreakingly wonderful portrayal of Jessie’s flawed mother, and Pat Healy demonstrates once again that he knows all too well how to make an audience distinctly uncomfortable. As Jessie and Matt, both de Angelis and David provide solid turns in their roles, but at times present themselves underprepared to be the objects of such focus as the film provides. Director Anthony Stabley’s conviction to keep humanity at the center of Everlasting requires the beautiful, close shots of the equally attractive actors at work, but evidently proves challenging for both. However, any moments that may seem strained can be overlooked thanks to the stunning cinematography, which works not only to be visually pleasing, but more importantly, to thoroughly deliver an environment of everything the film is selling: youth, beauty and love.
The film has done particularly well within the horror community—having even won the Jury Award at the Nevermore festival recently—but it would be disingenuous to actually call it horror. At most, it’s drama with an edge. This isn’t to detract from its quality, but more to suggest that it perhaps has a more fitting place outside of the genre it is marketed toward, particularly given the rather specific (and misleading) horror-centered focus of its trailer. And so, while Everlasting may at times be as naive as its two protagonists, it also manages to be just as intriguing.