North Bend Film Festival 2021: Superior

Superior delivers on atmosphere in a bewitching take on a familiar story.

A scene from Superior in which a woman wearing red overalls runs down a road at night

Synopsis: On the run, Marian returns to her hometown to hide out with her identical twin sister, Vivian, and in doing so alters the trajectory of both their lives.

Every now and then, you catch a film that for whatever reason, really connects with you. Superior fits that for me, presenting something almost intangibly magnetic. The word Lynchian is thrown around a great deal and sometimes seems to be used to describe ‘weird’ elements that otherwise don’t fit the plot. However, Superior very clearly wears Lynch’s influence in terms of creating an atmosphere thanks to its play with sound, image and questions of identity within the narrative. A motif like the first-person view from a car heading down a road at night feel like more direct lifts from Lynch’s material, but these don’t dominate proceedings.

While the central story offers little in the way of surprises, Superior makes for compelling viewing. Casting actual twin sisters to play Marian (Alessandra Mesa) and Vivian (Ani Mesa) allows for an easy chemistry to emerge. Yes, the narrative beats are very much what you would expect in terms of their different lives colliding and those beats of different lives colliding play out in very much the way you’d expect, but the package it delivers the story in is compelling enough that it doesn’t really matter.

Vivian’s tightly controlled existence, largely governed by her attempts to conceive with husband Michael (Jake Hoffman), a pursuit that sees her regularly monitor her temperature, cut out sugar and schedule sex. Marian, on the other hand is fleeing a life of danger, struggling with her grip on reality and trying to find a sense of security. The Mesa sisters are engaging in their roles and their interactions with one another anchor the film in a way that allows it to indulge in its dreamier directions.

Set in 1987, the film eschews the typical use of neon lighting seen in many films trying to reflect the era. In muting the colours, especially in Vivian’s rather more drab (but still stylish) domestic space, it reserves its blasts of colour for only the important times. Where other retro-stylings would have synth pop on the soundtrack, this presents snippets of grungier tracks alongside the ethereal tones of the film’s score. This more grounded feel also has the advantage of making the more unusual elements like Marian’s strange, omen-type visions stand out further. Dropping the sound almost entirely where other films would choose a blast of sound further showcases Erin Vassilopoulos’ confident handling.

A mesmerising clash of lifestyles and study of sisterhood that takes uses its stylistic influences to draw in the viewing from the opening all the way to the closing moments.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars

Superior screens as part of the North Bend Film Festival on July 15, 8:30 AM PST (DIGITAL) and July 18, 1:00 PM PST (PHYSICAL)

Author: ScaredSheepless

Film and television fan, with a particular love for horror.

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