Director: Joe Pomarico
Writer: Joe Pomarico
Story by: Christine James Walker, Joe Pomarico & Larry Bernado
Starring: Christine James Walker & Larry Bernado.
A beatific couple are buried in a dream relationship, but when their love slowly descends into nightmares, strange things begin to happen in their apartment.
The movie opens with Luna (Christine James Walker) and Chuck (Larry Bernardo) arriving at Chuck’s apartment, having met in a bar. They settle down, relax and get to know one another a little more in the more peaceful, safer and relaxed environment of the apartment. Chuck seems to know just what to say to pique Luna’s interest in him even more and although he does seem a little emotionally distant at times, he nevertheless relaxes round Luna and her sensual yet thought-provoking nature.
They drink. They talk. They dance.
It seems like the perfect evening in which love blossoms.
Luna initially doesn’t seem to want things to get sexual as she halts Chucks physical advances, but Chuck doesn’t become frustrated or annoyed by this; he’s accepted the situation for what it is and seems to be relaxed, almost content, in Luna’s company.
Despite Luna’s reticence towards the relationship getting sexual, Chuck emerges from the bathroom to find Luna in his bed, waiting for him.
From then on, the relationship grows.
They seem to be made for one another. Soulmates perhaps?
In fact, Luna even tells Chuck her theory on true love and on what she believes happens when someone meets their soulmate, something I’m not going to spoil here as I want to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.
Have they found true love in one another or is it already too late?
Has the rot already set and were they doomed from the very beginning?
You might be wondering where the horror is amongst all this, after all, I’ve been talking about a couple falling in love, that’s not horrific surely?
But as anyone who’s been in a relationship will know, the moments of discord and upset are inevitable. They’re a natural process of getting to know one another and two people living in close proximity are inevitably going to snap at one another, but it’s how you stop those things from occurring or how you resolve them that counts.
Chuck stops these issues early on but despite his best effort to take the life out of the potential for the seed of hatred to grow, it still rears its head.
You see, despite their seemingly idyllic life together, things are just a little bit odd now and then.
Chuck envisages Luna as a perfect, seductive pin-up girl but he also can’t shake the thought that something is very wrong as occasionally images of blood and death disrupt his mental processes and put him on edge. Things aren’t going right for Luna either and although I’m not going to go into them in any more detail. They are enough not only for the cracks in the relationship to show, but to be torn open in a way that may not be repairable.
The cosy moments become few and far between. In fact, to paraphrase a well-known little wise old space dude, “fear leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. And that’s the path to the dark side kiddies.”
At first glance, Mentally apart has a lot going against it.
It has a low budget of 7k. It stars two people for pretty much the entirety of the movie and is all shot in the one location. It’s the directors first feature-length film and in fact, the cast is likely to be unknown by the majority of people approaching it.
And of course, it’s a psychological horror.
That alone can be a tricky beast to get right at the best of times and when there’s a 90-minute runtime to fill, it can be all too easy to pad things out with unnecessary weirdness. You know the sort of thing; crazy camera angles, rapid overlaid images, distorted viewpoints that show nothing. Even I have to admit, I was a little cautious when approaching Mentally Apart.
We had been given access to a review copy of the film and when Christine James Walker informed me that the movie was a thinker and that it seemed that people didn’t understand it until the end, I did feel a little hesitant. I don’t always do well with subtext and there’s that issue of people’s interpretations being extremely different whilst also often being unnecessary.
There’s the risk of overanalyses and finding meaning where none exists.
So yeah, I was a little unsure when I first hit that play button.
Fortunately, all of my concerns were completely unfounded.
Yes, the film is a thinker, but only because, as a viewer, you’re intrigued. You know there is something hidden going on and as you watch, you theorise. Then once you have an idea, you wait to see if you’re right or not.
I don’t think it’s a case of people not understanding until the end either, well, unless people are watching the movie whilst also scrolling through their phones or whatever – that’s the path to the dark side, put that shit down and watch.
All that’s needed is to watch and listen, the answers are there.
The ending reveal is almost like the final confirmation of whether your theory was right or not. For me, I felt that I had it sussed and the reveal confirmed what I had thought was going on.
There’s still room for interpretation of course, but the ending fitted my theory and I was satisfied by that.
The reason all of this worked, comes down to just a few little things.
The writing, the directing and the cast.
Everything falls into place nicely with the story being intriguing as more and more gets slowly revealed until that final moment.
Cleverly though, as I watched it, I thought to myself that even though I was enjoying the film, I wasn’t sure if it would be something that I would watch again. But once the final moment had come and gone and I sat there thinking (slightly smugly perhaps) that my theory was correct, I realised that, actually, I do want to watch it again.
Now that my theory had been confirmed I want to see what other breadcrumbs I missed, what other little hidden things there were that I didn’t pick up on. I certainly missed one hint that was buzzing around that was pretty obvious once it’s been revealed, but was cleverly blended in to seem innocuous.
There’s another reason that I want to watch the film again and that’s for the soundtrack by composer Sascha Blank.
The soundtrack fitted everything very nicely without ever being intrusive and gave subtle undertones to the film, but unfortunately for me, it fitted so nicely that I never took the time to focus on it properly as I was so caught up in piecing together the events that were unfolding visually, rather than aurally. So that’s something else I need to rectify with a repeat viewing.
Acting-wise, Christine James Walker stole the show.
That’s not to say that Larry Bernado didn’t do a good job, because he did, it’s just that Christine got to show a lot more range due to the nature of her role.
Chuck’s words felt precise and calculated, designed to win over Luna and even though he smiled and got angry over the course of the movie, during moments of calm, (as I said right at the start) to me he felt a little emotionally distant.
Lacking empathy perhaps, but I’m going to say that it was an intentional move and even if it wasn’t it worked given what we learn about him.
Luna, on the other hand, is open and emotionally vulnerable at times.
She’s seductive without being slutty whilst also being vulnerable yet philosophical and thoughtful.
Her seemingly contradictory decisions also make sense come the end of the film.
Of course there is the fact that a lot of what is witnessed is only another characters perception and we only briefly see the true personas of Chuck and Luna.
It's a steady paced, thoughtful movie that has achieved a lot given all the constraints that it had to work with, not just budgetary but with lack of equipment and overheating camera fans interrupting the audio that they then had to fix in post so that it’s never noticeable in the final film.
Mentally apart won’t be for everyone, but for those who fancy something that’s going to make you think and is a good example of what can be done with a small budget it’s definitely one to watch. Once you’ve watched it, you’ll find yourself thinking about it afterwards, realising that you want to watch it again because you know you didn’t catch everything the first time and there are other discoveries to be made.
Hopefully, the film will find its place and its fans on the festival circuit and will be a step towards other things for all involved.
You can follow the movie on their twitter page @mentallyapart
You can also find the official trailer here: