Far and away one of the most unusual indies of the year, Natasha Kermani’s Nic Roeg-esque alien drama Imitation Girl is a divisive one.
At times serene, at others painstakingly slow, it eventually settles as a much visually brighter, but no less hopeful Under the Skin, traversing everything from intergalactic wormholes in its first act, to deeply troubled human identity in its second and third. And although the higher order thinking that sits just below the surface throughout isn’t always entirely clear, it remains, for the most part, emotionally gripping.
Comparisons to Roeg and David Bowie’s 70s classic The Man Who Fell To Earth are aplenty, particularly during the opening as the lead life-force in question actually falls to Earth, before promptly taking the form of a young woman it finds on the cover of an abandoned porn magazine. From there Kermani jumps neatly between the alien’s fish-out-of-water-style situation, wherein she shacks up with an Iranian family and learns to do all the necessary human stuff, like using the toilet and learning the language (although here it’s cleverly Farsi, not English), to the seemingly parallel life of the very woman who’s identity she’s effectively stolen: a struggling adult film star and drug addict living in New York.
The stories and situations these two women find themselves in certainly seem somewhat unrelated at first, and if you were, for whatever reason, hoping that they would eventually tie together, you might end up disappointed here. Although Imitation Girl sets up its neat story parallels pretty early on (the film’s poster alone says it all), they never seem to entwine quite as much as you want them to, and Kermani’s attempts to tie together a complete picture never feels entirely done.
What we end up with instead is two fairly involving narratives about a woman finding her place in a strange and dangerous world, and that’s about it. Both are shot well. Both have dramatic weight. Both are played fantastically by Lauren Ashley Carter, who takes the dual role totally in her stride and offers two vastly different performances, equally as vulnerable as each other. But neither ever really feels complete, devoid of any real conclusions or crescendos.
Kermani leaves a lot to chew on throughout mentally, and Carter’s leads own every ounce of screen-time their given. But without much of a well-rounded story to drive these characters home, there’s ultimately just not enough here to make for a totally engaging watch.
Imitation Girl was screened as part of Horror Channel FrightFest 2017.