Having won the Jury Award for Best Feature at the 17th Annual Nevermore Film Festival and nominated for best feature at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival, Anthony Stabley’s crime thriller Everlasting is a film that goes beyond your typical independent film.
Everlasting stylistically combines the essence of an investigative documentary normally associated with true crime shows like Beware the Slenderman with personal home video, flashback and real-time footage to convey a haunting and engaging story.
It has an enigmatic presence to draw you into the mystery. Everlasting is told from the perspective of Matt (Adam David), a high school film student who travels from Colorado to L.A. to find the truth behind the murder of his girlfriend Jessie (Valentina de Angelis).
What drives Everlasting is Matt’s determination to know the truth. There’s a powerlessness about him as he documents and narrates through his journey. It’s mixed with hopeful connections, two outcasts growing, understanding and belonging juxtaposed with the predatory underworld where the vulnerable are at risk. The truth is teased and taunted, provoking Matt to take a proactive vigilante approach in order to fill in the missing pieces. Scenes which depict frustration add to the sense of injustice and immorality of Matt’s world. It becomes a never-ending cycle where the police fail to catch the suspect and the failure of the criminal justice system when serial killers are given a second and unprejudiced chance to kill again.
The film’s exploration into the seedy underbelly becomes essential to its core theme. It plays with the conception about fame and twisting it into a concerning and otherworldly lifestyle that becomes an ugly breeding ground for exploitation and manipulation. That world becomes attractive for Jessie, occasionally flirting with the darkness while the danger lurks in the background. It acts as a personal and inevitable escape to feel whole and fulfils an expressive desire to become a model. But it quickly becomes apparent that the young couple are out of their depth, rapidly pulled away from their comfort zones. It is a stark contrast from the peaceful, scenic adventure shared between them prior to their trip to Los Angeles or their personal insights of a simpler time.
Because of its experimental and non-linear approach, Everlasting does meander halfway through due to repetitive character insights which could have been truncated and established through its narration. It becomes an extended exposition, losing its focus when we know and can infer how much Jessie and Matt loved each other. The mystery and the engaging premise is far more interesting and naturally becomes a tease to get back on track. However the deliberate focus on Matt and Jessie allows Everlasting to completely establish and give context to the relationship, especially as it leads towards its dramatic and sinister conclusion.
This story is more than just Matt’s journey into the truth. Everlasting is Jessie’s story, mirrored to showcase the essence of life and the pitfalls of death.
The success of Everlasting primarily comes down to one aspect. Whilst it pulls you into the mystery with its dark undertones, the film is really about the loss of innocence. It’s about a young life cut short by tragic circumstances and dealing with the emptiness that follows. People tend to express this through grief and past regrets. Matt chose to fight to find closure. In his eyes, he refused to let Jessie become another victim, another statistic in an unsolved murder.
The subject matter is grim but Everlasting delicately balances the light and the dark. Despite the foreboding nature surrounding Jessie’s personality, Matt’s remembrance and documentation of Jessie becomes a memorial – a positive reflection of a treasured and misunderstood love and a tribute to a love lost. By drastically changing the focus and intention of his film project, it becomes therapeutic. It allows Matt to heal and sympathetically humanize a complex individual, now immortalised through digital and online media.
While the film boasts a recognisable supporting cast including Robert LaSardo (Death Race), Elisabeth Röhm (American Hustle) and the late great Michael Massee (The X-Files, Millennium, 24, The Crow), the two young stars in Valentina de Angelis and Adam David carry the film with a definite plausibility. When the film asks for something truthful and genuine, surrounded by the falseness from the modelling world, the personal family struggles or the teenage insecurities, Matt and Jessie’s relationship is the one, unique bond that holds them together.
In his debut feature film, director Anthony Stabley delivers a believable and straightforward tale that manages to be intriguing yet doesn’t shy away from a brutal reality. It’s undoubtedly helped by the distinctive cinematography which elevates it above most independent films.