FANTASIA FEST 2021 REVIEW! Writer-director Perry Blackshear’s When I Consume You follows brother and sister, Wilson (Evan Dumouchel) and Daphne (Libby Ewing). They leaned on each other during their traumatizing childhood. Now, as adults, the siblings still depend on each other, as she’s a recovering addict, and he’s got severe social anxieties. But this new problem facing Daphne is one of the most difficult either she or Wilson have ever faced: an unknown person is stalking her.
To say much more would ruin the at times convoluted plotline, but, even with a third major player introduced during the final 30 or so minutes, David (MacLeod Andrews), the narrative solely focuses on the siblings. This means that Ewing and Dumouchel have a lot of heavy lifting to do. Happily, the actors are more than up to the challenge, as they are both perfectly cast. When Daphne is yelling at Wilson that he cannot give up now and has to keep fighting, the anger and hurt in her voice resonates. During one of the several flashbacks (most are five years ago), Luke talks Daphne down from an extreme bender. The love and concern he feels for her are palpable.
“…as adults, the siblings still depend on each other…”
Blackshear spent over a year editing When I Consume You, and the cutting is perfect. Some of the flashbacks interweave with the present-day scenes so seamlessly that it is not always clear that it is a new timeframe. That is on purpose, as the entire production has this eerie, mysterious vibe as if everything seen and heard is filtered through a fractured mind. There’s a reason for that. In fact, it comes right around the 20-minute mark, but given how dense the story is, the less said, the better.
And that is for both good and ill. See, the complex nature of who Daphne and Wilson are makes them very relatable, realistic characters. Audiences understand their foibles and root for the siblings to better themselves right away. However, the number of ways the tale turns in on itself and why/how get a bit hard to follow. Near the end, a voice-over begins and sort of explains everything that just happened. Mind you, there was no narration like this for most of the runtime, so it feels out of left field. It also gives off the distinct impression that while great care was point into the characters’ plight and the look of the film, the story might have gotten away from Blackshear at a certain point.
Still, When I Consume You is stunning to look at and beautifully acted. Even though not everything makes sense, Ewing and Dumouchel ensure that every emotional beat feels honest and the entire film breezes by, as it is startlingly original and unique. It is not perfect but it is ambitious and touching, and that is enough.
When I Consume You screened at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.