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TIFF Next Wave Review: ‘Ladyworld’

February 14, 2019Sara Clements

Ladyworld opens with nothing but a black screen, the sound of girls screaming, and a storm erupting; the horror of the next 93 minutes beginning instantly.

The film follows eight girls who are trapped together in a house after an earthquake. It's a pure, unhinged thriller. As time passes, we see the girls lose every sense of themselves, any sense of rationality, as desperation for escape takes hold. They scream, fight, start talking to themselves, and begin eating everything, from flowers to lipstick. It's anxiety-inducing in its sound design, reminiscent of Thoroughbreds, and the performances are haunting and manic, reminiscent of Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria. It's engaging — however, in all director Amanda Kramer's experimentation, the characters seem to take a back seat in a story that's supposed to be all about them.

We see these girls' psyches depleting, but we don't get a real sense of who these characters are beforehand to garner an emotional reaction to their plight. There are no backstories, and we don't learn how the characters even know each other in the first place. Once more, the actresses of color exist more in the background compared to the film's white leads. Ladyworld is polarizing, for sure, but you end up feeling like you're watching an acting workshop with a narrative that ultimately feels directionless.

Ladyworld screens Saturday, February 16th at TIFF Next Wave. Its runtime is 1 hr. 33 min.

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