Owen (Harry McIntire) and Kristen (Madeleine Clark) are 17-year old twins who are caring for their disabled mother (Melanie Hill). Unbeknownst to Mom, the two have put in for a bank loan, which leads them to make the acquaintance of loan officer Liam (Christian Cooke). Charming, with a slight off-kilter feel, Liam slowly befriends the twins, culminating in a night of drinking with Owen that ends up at Liam’s place, where Liam suggests that Own don women’s clothing, wig and make-up “for a laugh.”
Thus begins the rollercoaster that is Liam and Owen, as Liam entices Owen to continually push the line further along into the loss of his male identity for one more feminine and therefore more appealing to Liam. Liam promises love, and an excitement that the previously sheltered and conscientious Owen has been lacking. And yet, there’s something a little more disturbing going on with Liam that Owen does not seem to be entirely grasping.
Unconditional succeeds on the shoulders of Christian Cooke and Harry McEntire. Cooke manages to stay charismatic and compelling throughout, exuding a sense of violent danger and pathetic weakness all at the same time. He makes you feel fear and empathy. He’s damaged, potentially dangerous… but moreso to himself than anyone else.
McEntire’s job is to somehow make you believe that Owen would continue to go along with Liam’s insane demands, for whatever his motivations may be. As Liam drifts into more unstable waters, it takes a lot of convincing to keep you sympathetic with a character that is going along for the ride, more often than not, of his own free will. And McEntire achieves this.
You never really know where Unconditional is going, and my more pessimistic moments had the film going far darker than it actually does. In the end, I liked the uncertainty of it all, and everything from the look of the film to the flow of the edit enhances that raw unpredictability. I didn’t always understand the accents, but you can’t help but follow the story.