When a movie doesn’t tell you much about what is going on halfway through the film, it sometimes unfolds into an eye-opening experience that has you saying: “Ohhh! So that’s why this happened!” and allows the viewer to discover the twists and turns on his or her own. Unfortunately, the Australian filmed-with-North-American-accents flick “Observance” is not one of those movies, making its world premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
Parker is hired to do a simple, yet cash-inducing job: he needs to set himself in an abandoned building and observe the woman who lives in the apartment across the street. He is to take pictures, listen in on her conversations and report back to his anonymous employer. This seems to have come at a good time in his life as his wife, or ex-wife, is never responding to his calls and money seems to be an issue for him. Things start to go awry for the observed woman as her boyfriend begins to get violently agitated in her presence. Parker’s side of things do not seem to be going better: he is having odd dreams; a strange and painful wound has appeared on his back; he is vomiting a dark, viscous substance; and a glass jar seems to be inexplicably filling itself with more of the same liquid every day. Perhaps this job is allowing paranoia to take over Parker. Perhaps things are looking more menacing for him than for the woman across the street.
Observance doesn’t give you much backstory on the characters, and that’s sometimes alright, as you figure out personality traits or a character’s past experiences from subtle details of a developing plot. However, in “Observance”, we are left guessing many things. We are guessing why Parker is developing a concerning lesion. We are guessing why the jar is filling with a suspicious liquid. We are guessing why a creepy ghoulish-like woman is stalking him. All of this guessing remains unanswered at the conclusion of the movie. Many loose ends left untied sets a blanket of frustration on the viewer. This is shameful, since Parker (Lindsay Farris; “Primal”) gives a decent performance in a disappointing movie.
Highly disappointed, I decided to stay for the Q & A session at the conclusion of the movie, as director Joseph Sims-Dennett, along with members of the cast, were present for the screening of the film’s world premiere at Fantasia. I was hoping to have things cleared up for me as I felt quite disconcerted. Questions from the audience were asked, namely concerning the ending of the film, which left a lot of (frustratingly) unanswered questions. The audience member asked for the interpretation of the movie’s conclusion from each cast member as well as from the director. Each individual gave a different, nebulous, vague and confusing interpretation, not clarifying anything concerning clarifications of the storyline. The whole Q & A was vague in its explanations and truly confirmed my letdown.
A movie with some suspenseful moments and an honorable performance by Lindsay Farris, but will leave you scratching your head at numerous unexplained, frustrating plot developments. A bummer of a 2.5 out of 5 stars.