Original-Cin Q&A/review: Abusive vibe between two women in Allure is blisteringly dark

In their new film, AllureEvan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone play the troubled 30-year-old Laura and the impressionable 16-year-old Eva, respectively. The pair of young women find each other while trying to escape—Eva from her uptight mother, and Laura from her abusive father. Unfortunately, the women’s intimate relationship turns toxic and abusive, as Laura takes advantage of Eva’s emotional dependence on her. 

Portraying abusive relationships on screen is obviously challenging, so it was important for Wood and Stone, as well as the directors Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez, (Canadian photographers in their feature debut) to create a safe, welcoming environment on set. 

When Allure premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, Original-Cin’s Bonnie Laufer spoke with stars Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone about the challenge of portraying their characters’ abusive relationship on screen.

Allure opens in Toronto on April 6th 

Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone in Allure. This relationship is 12 kinds of messed up.

Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone in Allure. This relationship is 12 kinds of messed up.

ORIGINAL-CIN: Not going to lie. This movie really made me squirm. Did either of youfeel that way when you first read the script? 

JULIA SARAH STONE:  Yeah, that is what this film sets out to do. (laughs) 

EVAN RACHEL WOOD: Oh definitely. If it made you squirm, then we did our job right. 

OC:  Evan, you are playing a pretty damaged woman. Where did you even go to get into her headspace? 

ERW:  “This was one the hardest characters I've ever played and it took my awhile to calibrate after it was done. I was first attracted to it because I was told that the part was originally written for a man and that they gender swapped it so that immediately sparked my attention.

It's also the first time I’ve played a predator in that way. She was definitely a multidimensional predator because I think in this we were exploring how someone gets to that point. So there's this dichotomy of sympathizing with her. But also you cannot excuse the things that she's doing, so if anything it’s a tragedy that she's gotten to this point. I looked at it as if she's become a prisoner of her own drama.” 

 OC: She does some pretty horrible things. 

ERW: “That’s an understatement. (laughs) I really hated having to do all the things I had to do to poor Julia and that was very unnatural for me and something that really took some serious focus. There were even a few times in rehearsal that I would just tear up at what I was doing. It really got to me when I removed myself  from the character. So it  took a lot to kind of stay in that dark frame of mind.”

OC:  Julia, this had to have been incredibly challenging for you too. You’re both such sweethearts in real life but you also have to go to a pretty dark place. I was wondering what your bonding process was like with Evan?

JSS: “I approached the character with a lot of the vulnerability that she has. Eva is so open and in need of some love, so any kind of active affection that comes her way she’s going to latch on to that, she's very vulnerable. Working with Evan was like a dream because we had a real connection and she is everything you could ask for in a scene partner, so it made me easy to access that kind of raw emotion. She made it very easy for me.”

OC: I think what upset me most was that even when Eva had the chance to run away, she doesn’t.  Why do you think that is? 

JSS:  “I think it's a multitude of things. I think fear has a lot to do with it,  I think the need for love has a lot to do with it. With Eva’s background she doesn't really have any source of affection or love or belonging and so when Laura offers that to her it's this new thing and it feels good and she feels special. So even though she knows that it has turned bad it’s still very difficult to walk away from.”

OC: Evan, you are extremely busy these days. Your portrayal of Delores in the HBO series Westworld is extraordinary. I can’t wait to see where Season 2 takes you in April! 

ERW:  “Thanks, that show has been a lot of work but so much fun!”

OC: So with everything you’re involved with I am curious to know how the script for this low-budget Canadian film got to you and why you decided to come on board? 

ERW: “I love Canadian films and I absolutely love working in Canada. Usually there’s more of a European influence on them, I love the crews here and I really just love this country. 

To be honest, I find that there are more interesting opportunities here. It’s so hard to film in the States because it’s ridiculously expensive and making these smaller independent films is almost non-existent. You’re either in a huge franchise, or a comic book movie or there’s nothing. I always have such a great experience working here with the filmmakers and the actors. I’m directing a film which we will be shooting in Vancouver, so call me a fan! I definitely cannot complain!” (laughs)

Click here to watch Bonnie’s interview with the film’s writers/directors Carlos and Jason Sanchez.

Capsule review of Allure by Kim Hughes

Rating: B

The debut feature from acclaimed Montreal fine-art photographers/sibs Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez is about 12 kinds of unsettling.

Emotionally unbalanced housecleaner Laura (Evan Rachel Wood) lures disenfranchised teen Eva (Julia Sarah Stone who, very uncomfortably, scans much, much younger) away from her family and into her own home. There, Laura emotionally blackmails Eva into covertly staying, despite Eva’s growing alarm at the life she has impetuously chosen. Things go south from there, sexually and otherwise. 

While it’s impossible to recommend this blisteringly dark film - screened by Original Cin at TIFF 2017 - across the board (I think you can tell if it fits your mood or taste), it does haunt, rendering it a psychological thriller that more than lives up to its billing. 

Allure. Directed by Carlos and Jason Sanchez. Starring Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone. Opens in Toronto Friday, April 6.