2016 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

American-in-Paris Maureen Cartwright (Kristen Stewart) finances her chosen vocation as a medium by working as a personal shopper for a diva boss. However, contact with the other side - in a bid to communicate with her dead twin brother- sets in train a terrifying turn of events with Maureen haunted by a spectral figure and plagued by mysterious texts. In her second film with writer-director Olivier Assayas, Stewart is perfectly cast as a woman straying into the shadows.

Director

  • Olivier Assayas

Cast

  • Kristen Stewart

  • Lars Eidinger

  • Sigrid Bouaziz

  • Anders Danielsen Lie

  • Ty Olwin

  • Hammou Graïa

  • Nora von Waldstätten

Review

After her star-making role as a love-stricken vampire in the tween-friendly Twilight series, Kristen Stewart attracted serious critical acclaim for her portrayal of a harassed PA in Olivier Assayas's ​Clouds of Sils Maria.

Re-teaming with the French director, she plays a similar role as Maureen, an American personal shopper who zips around Paris on a scooter picking up high-end haute couture for her employer - a haughty German socialite.

We quickly learn that she's only collecting $2,000 handbags as a means to finance her true vocation - working as a medium, a gig she has refined following the death of her clairvoyant twin sibling Lewis.

They agreed that whoever died first (she shares the heart condition that killed him) would send a message from beyond the grave so Maureen constantly returns to the spooky semi-derelict house owned by him.

There she has genuine connection with the other side. However, it's not a reassuring supernatural signal from her brother but a genuinely terrifying apparition composed of tendrils of swirling ectoplasm.

The sense of paranormal threat steps up a gear when - while on a Eurostar dash to London - Maureen gets a series of mystery texts, a device that's later used to excellent Hitchcockian effect when the sender fires off a series of messages describing his increasing proximity to her.

Often bizarre and never less than intense, this is a chillingly crafted world of shadows where nothing is quite what it seems and it refreshingly sidesteps any genre pigeonholing.

Stewart, sullen and rarely smiling (what's new?), is well cast as the troubled assistant who secretly revels in dressing up in her mistress's clothes (after expressly being told not to) while subtly conveying suppressed panic as events take a violent turn for the weird. 

What's most impressive is Assayas's determination not to play by the rules: this is a story at odds with accepted formula and is all the more disturbing for it.

Tim Evans