Director: Brendan Muldowney
Cast: Robert de Hoog, Pollyanna McIntosh, Amanda Ryan, Emma Eliza Regan
Running Time: 94 minutes
Release Date: July 4th
Ian (de Hoog) is a man obsessed with death. From the death of his father when Ian was a child to the school friend whose hanged body Ian discovers in the woods a decade later, it’s always at the forefront of his consciousness.
Following on from the latter incident he shuts himself off from the physical world, subsisting on his mother’s cooking and online friendships from suicide forums. After his mother dies – and leaves him a PS I Love You-esque guide to life – Ian decides that it’s his turn to shuffle off his mortal coil.
When his attempted suicide is interrupted though, his necro-obsession becomes more of a necro-romance. He begins living out his most meaningful relationships with the dead bodies he comes across, animated solely by his imagination. Ian then meets Naomi (Pollyanna McIntosh), a married woman contemplating suicide after the death of her young son, and Ian’s world comes to life.
Perhaps the title ‘In Love with the Dead’ the name of the Japanese novel by Kei Oishi from which it is adapted is a more fitting one. Brendan Muldowney’s film here is more focused on death, isolation and obsession, certainly from Ian’s perspective, than with love. Ian has no real concept of love and looks upon it with an almost alien dispassion.
Muldowney takes an understated approach, with lingering visuals and subtle nuance rather than grand spectacle. The problem with this is that viewer will start to ask questions, like why are there so many different accents (Irish, English and Dutch at the very least) and differently regged cars in this small town; or how does Ian know how to drive if he has just spent three years – certainly his 17th, 18th and 19th birthdays – arsing about in his room.
These questions end up nagging at the viewer and distracting from the character study of Ian. And it’s hard to relate to Ian as a character at the best of times. He lives out a spoon-fed, nihilistic life where his actions have no real consequences. He is griefless, joyless, remorseless figure, and, though de Hoog does well to inhabit the character’s skin and bring a sense of reality to it, he can never deliver enough pathos for the viewer to root for Ian. Even his mantra of ‘I am a defective human being’ doesn’t elicit much by way of sympathy.
It’s a relief then that Love Eternal’s aesthetic is not bludgeoned by Ian’s own. There are moments of levity about the film and, once you get over the initial shock of Ian’s obsession, some dark humour to be found. It isn’t enough to entirely redeem the film but makes the whole thing a much more palatable experience.