February 21, 2023 Nocebo (Movie Review)
Streaming Exclusively on the premiere Horror service Shudder as of Friday, February 24, 2023, Nocebo is the latest film from the award-winning Irish Filmmaker Lorcan Finnegan. Much like Finnegan’s previous film, 2019’s award-winning Vivarium, Nocebo presents the audience with a mystery. This in mind, is this one a mystery worth solving?
Early on in Nocebo, we see fashion designer Christine (Eva Green: Casino Royale 2006, Penny Dreadful series) receive a peculiar phone call. She collapses to the ground and has clearly received some sort of terrible news, but whatever that news is, she either cannot or will not deal with it and the resulting trauma has left her suffering with pain and memory loss.
Soon a stranger named Diana (Chai Fonacier: Jesus is Dead 2016, Maria Clara and Ibarra series) arrives at the house that Christine shares with husband Felix (Mark Strong: Zero Dark Thirty 2012, Shazam! 2019) and young daughter Roberta (Billie Gadsdon: Cruella 2021, The Midwich Cuckoos series). Christine doesn’t remember hiring anyone, but Diana reassures her that she did and that she is there to help Christine with anything she needs. Whilst Felix is unhappy about having a stranger live in their house and Roberta is sullen, Christine is taken in by Diana’s good cooking, thoughtfulness, and her uncanny ability to get rid of the severe physical pain that she suffers.
As mentioned, Nocebo revolves around a mystery, however unlike Vivarium, the answer to its mystery is solved much earlier on. That in mind, Nocebo works on showing the psychological effects of trauma on both those who have suffered from it and on those who have caused it. Nocebo is also a film about mothers – mothers who work hard and who will do anything for their children. As such the two most important characters, Christine and Diana, are also the two performances which are the most notable. Green is always a commanding screen presence, and she is just as engaging as a high-flying fashion designer as she is as a woman slowly losing her mind. Fonacier is probably even better though and her quietly intimidating performance makes her more than a match for Green in every scene.
As Nocebo’s story builds towards its confrontational third act, it adopts a topicality that raises issues of ethics and morality. The issues raised at this point are arguably the film’s most interesting and will definitely spark debate amongst audiences. Unfortunately, the issues raised are ones that are foreshadowed much earlier on in the film and the late reveal of them is slightly frustrating for the audience as time is spent on less interesting aspects of the story.
Nocebo is visually strong and maintains an atmospheric feel throughout, although it never fully commits itself to being an outright horror in a way that would have elevated it above other films in the genre. The result is a film which is a reasonably interesting and engaging watch, but is far outshined by others of similar ilk. This may be one for the Eva Green super fans only. All things considered; Cryptic Rock gives Nocebo 3 out of 5 stars.