Perhaps the easiest way to describe Greg Harrison’s “November” is it’s Run Lola Run meets Pi with a splash of “Seven”. If that description isn’t clear enough that may be because “November” tries to be a lot of things within its 78 minute running time, succeeding marvelously at some while crashing and burning on others.
On November seventh, Sophie (Courteney Cox) sends her boyfriend Hugh (James LeGros) into a convenience store for a late night snack where he is promptly killed by a jumpy gunman. A month after the shooting, Sophie is having trouble returning to her normal life, she can’t find the strength to erase his voice from the answering machine, her persistent headaches are getting worse and then there is the issue of the mysterious photograph from the night of the shooting that arrives in her classroom. During these early scenes, “November” resembles “Pi-lite” with the jarring editing, close up on bugs and uneasy tension. As a thriller it seems awfully familiar and has trouble establishing a voice all its own. However, as Sophie’s life grows increasingly stranger with odd phone calls and bloody visions, the film doubles back on us and we find ourselves back on November seventh, presented with a very different account of what happened in the store that night.
To give away the secret behind the multiple realities would spoil the surprise, but suffice to say “November” gets better once it tones the disturbing images down. The audience is presented with Sophie as a woman trying to hold it together in the face of tragedy in addition to handling her own apprehension following an affair with a co-worker (Michael Ealy). At its core, “November” is a film about guilt within a relationship and works best in the scenes between Sophie and Hugh. The addition of the mystery plot while a draw at first ends up proving distracting given that the real meat of the story is in the quieter down to earth moments, not the creepy elements.
As it stands now, “November”‘s ratio of drama to thrills is probably 45% to 55% when in reality it should be the other way around. The gruesome wounds and freaky noises only achieve an impact if the audience is drawn into the characters they are happening to. However, while not entirely successful Harrison and company manage to create one of the strangest romantic films out there and for their attempt at the offbeat deserve to be recognized.