★★ Directed by: Rajiv Whabi Written by: Sara Beinat, Rajiv Whabi Starring: Lauren Nieuwland, Sofia Asir, Aron Marzetti, Sameer Al Obaidli, Bianca Marciuc, Ashley William Griffiths Indie Film Review by: Chris Olson
A tense drama mystery thriller from filmmaker Rajiv Whabi (co-written by Sara Beinat and based on a short story by Lawrence Block) If Something Happens is a morality tale that is loaded with good visuals but lacks in numerous other departments.
Lauren Nieuwland plays the lead character of Julie Reynolds, a struggling estate agent whose big city life seems ready to devour her. Her life becomes more interesting, though, when it becomes entangled with some mysterious emails that promise to shell out considerable chunks of money to her, “if something happens” to a particular stranger. Shrugging this off initially as crazed gremlins or that Nigerian prince who always wants our bank account details, Julie starts to take more notice when she learns that the stranger named in the email has been killed, and an envelope turns up with the exact amount of money promised.
An interesting premise, If Something Happens manages to create a relatively tense atmosphere throughout simply because of the mystery surrounding the deaths and cash. As the movie progresses, Julie becomes increasingly ensnared by the seemingly “victimless” crime she is unwittingly involved with, as she at one point says “It’s not me killing them”. Her ethics aside, it’s interesting to watch her character shed the beleaguered small-fish-big-pond routine for something more commanding and at times morally brutal.
From a filmmaking/cinematic standpoint, the visuals are well prepared. The mise en scéne had a lot in common with the professional coldness found in a mainstream movie like Fifty Shades of Grey, or to a much lesser degree, Steve McQueen’s Shame. That being said, the sound design needs ripping up and starting again. The audio has been dubbed terribly, making the characters look like they are auditioning for a toothpaste commercial, and the score is incredibly melodramatic, putting so much force into the scenes it becomes a noticeable distraction.
There is a formidable tedium which resonates in many scenes where we follow Julie doing an array of insipid activities, such as slowly typing phrases into a search engine or lying on the couch doing nothing. That being said, there was a really enjoyable dream sequence in the latter section of If Something Happens which was brilliantly delivered, something the film could have done with more of.
As is the case with many feature length films based on short stories the format does not suit the narrative here. It's too long and the central performance is not commanding enough to warrant so much screen time. The idea is strong but the execution lacks bold direction, it would be interesting to see the premise in a short film format with much better audio.
Now, if something happens to me be sure to check the outbox of the filmmaker's email.
Watch the official movie trailer below...