72nd Cannes Film Festival: Sick, Sick, Sick Review

They say you never forget your first love. In this case, teenager Silvia (Luiza Kosovski) is so adamant to get back her Romeo that she turns to bloody sacrifice and revival voodoo. Brazilian filmmaker Alice Furtado’s feature-length debut is a swirling fever dream of obsession, mourning, and a cold apathy towards the world. Taking a slightly more morbid take on the story of teenage sweethearts, Sick, Sick, Sick is a story of infatuation, yearning and inexhaustible grief.

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Photo © Estudio Giz

Shy and reserved Silva’s world is turned upside down when rebellious Artur (Juan Paiva) joins her school, infusing vitality and excitement into Silvia’s drained and boring life. While everything starts out all roses for the young couple, their innocent affair is short-lived. Artur suffers from hemophilia and shortly dies a bloody death as a result. Silvia is left distraught and quickly falls into a deep sickness that results in fever dreams and confusing nightmares. To try and distract Silvia from her illness, Silvia’s parents decide to take her away to a vacation house on a remote island. What was intended as a peaceful and healing trip results in being a playground of Haitian voodoo and sacrifice for obsessive Silva to indulge in as she tries to bring her beloved Artur back to life.

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Photo © Estudio Giz

“She is completely numb” remarks Silvia’s mother, Fernanda (Sílvia Buarque). ‘Numb’ is certainly an adequate word to describe spiralling Silvia’s state after the death of her lover. Hunched in the backseat of her parent’s car, headphones in, Silvia refuses to say much to anyone; indifferent to anything outside of her romantic fantasies. Her bleak and grey reality of lonely mornings, doctor trips, and never-ending car rides with her parents has nothing on the beautiful purple-and-orange-filled sequences that invade Silvia’s dreams. Silvia’s visions of reuniting with Artur soon start to drive her mad; she becomes obsessed with the idea of bringing Artur back. While the film strikes the tone of numbness in grief well, it skips over all the other emotions wrapped up in tireless mourning. It ignores the frustration, the guilt, and the sheer exhausting sorrow that comes with losing a loved one. Numbness in itself is a frustrating and conflicting state to be in, something sadly not covered much in the film. Instead it paints a monotone and rudimentary picture of what it means to mourn. Such a limitation on Sylvia’s character means that certain parts of the story feel ineffective, stagnant and hard to digest.

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Photo © Estudio Giz

Silvia spends her time on the island scouring over old books about sorcery and ways to resurrect the dead. Here, she learns about Haitian voodoo and the ways in which certain rituals are designed to bring back the departed. What could have been a fascinating and exciting voyage into the mysterious world of black magic instead feels flat and drawn-out. Silvia’s ambiguous wandering around the island and constant indifference can feel very lifeless and hard to grip onto. What started as a compassionate and frenzied lust for love dwindles out into comatose and detached void where Sylvia’s emotions are hard to grasp. Naturally, Sylvia is an incredibly introverted soul. However, when she’s depicted as so shut-off that not even the audience can grow to truly emphasis with her it can be hard to get invested in her character.

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Photo © Estudio Giz

(Spoiler Alert) The film picks up towards the end of its duration when Sylvia finally decides to attempt revival voodoo herself.  Chalking herself in white, drawing out symbols on the ground in chicken blood, and rolling around in the dirt– Sylvia follows everything she has read in the books. Her attempts are successful. Unfortunately for Silvia, her voodoo has brought back a very different version of Artur. One who turns up to her house bloody-faced and grinning – having left a trial of half-massacred, half-eaten human and animal carcasses in his wake. Sylvia here learns the hard way of what happens when you try to meddle with the inevitable forces of fate.

Sick, Sick, Sick is a quite literal interpretation of the phrase ‘lovesick’; exploring the fevers of love and the manias that can unravel when obsession and delusion is left untreated. Whilst exciting in its passionate aims and intriguing story, it seems to lack a little heart in its portrayal of the complexities of grief. What begins as an interesting flight into the messy, tunnel-vision erratic behaviour that comes with vulnerable and inexperienced love soon flatlines.

Rating: Image result for 3 and a half star rating png

Written by Abi Aherne

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