art of obsession

Art of Obsession (2017) Movie Review: When Art Emerges from Insanity

Sliding through a downward spiral of self-destructive behavior can be a frightening reality more terrifying than any brutal onscreen bloodbath of modern horror. While many abductions and captivity films tend to steer towards blood and gore to maintain suspense, Canadian director Ryan M. Andrews takes a different approach with his latest feature Art of Obsession. Diving into the lead character’s psyche, motives and tormented history, this psychological noir relies on character development and crafty storytelling to convey a unique twist on an old concept.

Beginning as a coping method to ease the stress of fame as a writer, Kennedy Sait’s (Ry Barrett, Cold Dark Mirror, The Demolisher) drug and alcohol addiction worsens after the loss of his wife and child. In his deteriorating mental state of mind, Kennedy is about to take his own life until a hallucination of his neighbor Patricia Bailey (Winny Clarke, Almost Adults, Best Friend from Heaven) appears explaining that she is his muse and will not allow him to leave this life while there’s still much to be told.

Under the delusion that he has been granted redemption and a new purpose, Kennedy attempts to kick his drug habit and revive his writing career by holding Patricia captive. While projecting his crippling behavior of addiction onto Patricia, he buries himself in his next project. However, consistent interruptions by family, police and a fellow junky threaten to expose and derail his plans before his work is finished.

The driving force behind Art of Obsession is Barrett and Clarke’s outstanding chameleon performances. Barrett’s portrayal of Kennedy has such a subtle character development that one cannot help but feel empathy and admiration that gradually turns to disgust for the struggling writer turned delusional captor. When transitioning through such extremes, one risks appearing too abrupt thereby losing the audience. However, Barrett does this with ease giving a natural flow through his character’s layered development.

Though she did not have to develop her character quite a gradually, Clarke had the daunting task of portraying two very different character personas simultaneously. When appearing as Kennedy’s hallucination, Clarke gives a strong and sinister, yet seductive vibe as an unyielding muse who wants nothing more than to see the once prominent writer thrive again at any cost. While maintaining a certain level of strength, Clarke conveys a much different persona in Patricia. Though she is held captive chained to a wall, she refuses to surrender to stockholm syndrome while fighting her captor any chance she is given knowing that her own sanity is at stake.

While the pacing seems to be a bit slow at times, Art of Obsession has noteworthy suspenseful plot development. With the interjection of a couple unexpected characters that become intertwined, paths inevitably cross in a climactic finale with a clever twist. However, a couple alterations could have carried this film a long way. This feature could have amplified the emotional side of things by trimming some of the lengthier scenes and including a flashback of the death of Kennedy’s wife and child. This would have added a bit more of a gut-wrenching touch. Furthermore, the psychological aspect could have been intensified. Kennedy’s instability could have been highlighted more dramatically by including some interaction with him and his muse hallucination while simultaneously interacting with Patricia periodically throughout the film.

Despite a few minor suggestions for improvement, Art of Obsession is a captivating story with a unique angle. With fantastic detailed performances and climactic plot development, Andrews proves with this feature that blood and gore are not necessary to create suspense. When you have lines that stick in your head like “don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story” and a less intense score resembling the beginning and ending of 28 Days Later that fittingly wraps up your film, it is safe to say you have created something worthwhile.

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