February 28, 2021 Fear of Rain (Movie Review)
What if you witnessed something that you knew you were not meant to see? In the spirit of Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window, or, more recently, 2016’s The Girl on the Train, comes Fear of Rain (which rhymes!). Katherine Heigl and Harry Connick, Jr. star in the Thriller, which arrived to Digital/On Demand on February 12, 2021, as well as to Blu-ray and DVD on February 16th, thanks to Lionsgate.
Written and directed by Castille Landon (Albion: The Enchanted Stallion 2016, Apple of My Eye 2017), Fear of Rain combines Drama and Mystery while using a heavy psychological base to arrive at something that is best termed as a Psychological Thriller. Much of that is thanks to its lead character, Rain (Madison Iseman: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 2017, Annabelle Comes Home 2019), a teenager suffering from schizophrenia.
Facing the very likely prospect of having their daughter forcibly institutionalized, her parents—John (Connick, Jr.: Copycat 1995, Will & Grace series) and Michelle (Heigl: Knocked Up 2007, One For the Money 2012)—struggle to believe their teen when she claims to see a little girl in the neighbor’s attic window pleading for help. But the neighbor in question just so happens to be Rain’s English teacher, Mrs. McConnell (Eugenie Bondurant: Fight Club 1999, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 2015), who, while eccentric, is entirely harmless and lives alone.
As the pressure on Rain begins to mount and her auditory and visual hallucinations increase, distinguishing what is real and what is a trick of her own mind becomes progressively more complicated. Should she just assume that the little girl is a figment of her imagination and save herself the stress or does she have a responsibility to the potential victim—but is there even a potential victim? Bullied by fellow students, brushed off by her parents and fighting to be taken seriously, she places her trust in a new partner-in-crime, Caleb (Israel Broussard: The Bling Ring 2013, Happy Death Day 2017), who might not even exist.
Sometimes the very best Thrillers are those that keep it simple. Fear of Rain does this by repeatedly asking its audience: Is this merely a trick of the mind? In keeping the plot fairly simple, Landon is able to include a painful twist that hits with great efficacy. So while the bulk of the film is heavy on the drama inherent in Rain’s situation, there is also a pervasive sense of mystery to this simple but well-done film.
What is truly special about Fear of Rain is its sincere depiction of the struggles of a young woman with schizophrenia. Great care is taken to offer viewers an experience that is not a mocking caricature: Rain is strong-willed, intelligent, independent, and artistic. She explains to her psychiatrist (Enuka Okuma: Rookie Blue series, Impulse series) that the medication used to ‘balance’ her makes her feel numb; it kills her artistic inspiration and takes away what gives her life joy. These are common complaints from those who have been medicated for mental illness, individuals who must weigh where the line between ‘mental health’ and ‘loss of self’ begins and ends. Rain’s parents too face the tortured decision of whether or not to believe in their daughter, and it’s not always something that they can do easily. Much of the strength of the film, therefore, is its emotional impact that comes from a screenplay that is grounded in the turmoil of reality; pitting a stigmatized young woman against a society that wants to ignore her voice.
Perhaps this is the strongest plus point in Fear of Rain’s favor: it is not just an intriguing ‘who-done-what’ but more so a PSA about the stigmas attached to mental health. From depression to Dissociative Identity Disorder, schizophrenia to anxiety, we live in a society where once an individual is diagnosed they carry a badge that makes them more diagnosis than person. Think back to high school and the kids that were rumored to have spent a stint in the psychiatric ward: they lost their individual identities and became ‘the crazy kid.’ As we fight to change this ignorance films such as this serve as a reminder that no one is a diagnosis.
But underneath it all this is still a Thriller and it is still meant for entertainment. For 109 engaging and enjoyable minutes, Iseman embraces her role and gives a moving performance that might inspire a few tears. The actress’ ability to craft a character who is worthy of our empathy is exceedingly strong, which empowers the entire film; because without Rain being a believable and likable young woman something important would be lost. A credit to her abilities, Iseman commits to her role and lures us inside Rain’s mind, physically embodying the emotional exhaustion as she delivers a heady dose of psychological confusion.
Connick, Jr. and Heigl are, of course, as talented as always. Connick, Jr. offers some truly moving moments as his character breaks down under the stress of trying to decide what’s best for his daughter. In one of the opening scenes, the seasoned actor even manages to imbue his voice with that sandpaper sadness that universally conveys emotional torment. For her part, Heigl is the loving, tender-hearted mother who is stuck between her frustrated husband and equally frustrated daughter. Though she is more the voice of reason that begs for peace, she is no less wonderful in her role.
Although, aside from Iseman the true standout here is Broussard. His Caleb is the quirky but cute new boy at school who immediately takes to Rain; he is, quite literally, “too good to be real.” In the role, Broussard is charismatic, likable, and inspires many smiles. The skilled actor tactfully conveys the awkwardness and fumbling of young love, while also presenting a teenager who is wise far beyond his years. And considering the deep weight of this story, the added element of a burgeoning romance is the light-hearted cherry that moviegoers need on top.
So, is some kind of horror hiding next door or is there darkness lurking within Rain herself? Fear of Rain will provide you a detailed answer, but its strength lies not in its conclusions but in the questions it asks viewers to ponder long after its end credits have faded. A smart Thriller that offers something more socially responsible than splashed blood and energizing intrigue, Cryptic Rock gives Fear of Rain 4 of 5 stars.