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TIFF 2015 Movie Review: Endorphine

There is a weird little sub-genre that exists in film: “The quantum mechanics/time traveling/multiple reality non-linear narrative film.” These are really complex films that try to explore the concept of reality, in a non-linear way.

Endorphine, from French Canadian filmmaker Andre Turpin, is the latest entry this peculiar sub-genre which includes some of my all-time favorite movies such as Mr. Nobody and Primer.

The film is set in several vague time periods over the course of the film protagonist’s life. 12-year-old Simone (Sophie Nelisse) witnesses her mother being murdered in a stairwell and faints. She becomes trapped in a loop of that event through waking life and dreams, which extends to when Simone becomes an adult (Mylene Mackay), and as an old woman (Lise Roy).

While the murder seems to be the catalyst for the looping (although shadows of it appear before the event), there really isn’t much in the way of a murder mystery. The film doesn’t really bother exploring who killed her mother and why.

We also get to see the Simone’s dreams about the event, which the film implies is a truer way to experience reality, which accesses a person’s entire lifetime simultaneously.

There’s also some subtle disturbing imagery which tends to deal with fingers that makes your skin crawl, and becomes a motif during the dreams. Unless the whole film was a dream, it’s kind of hard to tell if any of it happened. Some of the events take place as a film within a film, or film within a film within a film.

Endorphine is beautifully shot and expertly edited in an very David Lynch-kind of way. Nelisse, Mackay, and Roy deliver excellent performances as the protagonist with a traumatized psyche, but you never learn anymore than that about the character. The film also doesn’t bother with trivialities such as plot momentum, so the film never really builds towards anything.

What we end up with is a very expertly put together film, that drips with style and interesting questions, but never really comes together. The cycling back in on itself tends to get repetitive after a while, making this 90 minute movie feel much longer than it really is.

The film never fizzles out but never quite comes together in a meaningful way. Endorphine is a vague idea wrapped in a beautifully shot body.

3 out of 5 stars.

Here's the French trailer (without subtitles):

Image: Les Films Christal