Diane (2018)

The war in Afghanistan has left scars on Steve — physical and emotional ones. He never really returns home, as every day is just a series of repetitive tasks and drinking himself to a fitful slumber. But when the corpse of a gorgeous singer — Diane — shows up in his backyard, he does something strange before calling the police. He takes her photo.

Soon, Steve can only think of the dead woman. The rest of his life is a shambles — attacked by neighbors who think he’s the killer, hounded by the police and even visited by Diane’s husband. There’s only one good thing in his life — he’s now haunted by a woman who he can’t ever remember meeting.

Jason Alan Smith, who appeared on FX’s Feud and in the movie Before I Wake, has to carry nearly this entire movie as Steve. A majority of the film is him speaking directly to the camera or going through the motions of his ruined life. He’s the best actor in it, which is a good thing, because it’s one hell of a challenge. I really liked how the closer Steve gets to Diane’s ghost, the more he changes. He no longer needs a cane to walk and he can easily best the neighborhood toughs. He’s found something to care about again.

Director/writer/director Michael Mongillo (Being Michael Madsen) set the bar high here. Probably higher than the budget would allow, but there are flourishes of style that make this movie stand out. I love the prelude of Diane singing before the title is revealed. And the video effects as Steve battles her spirit near the end of the film are really inventive.

Carlee Avers is interesting as Diane. Most of her role calls for her to look alluring and she easily handles that, but there are some nice moments where her gorgeous veneer is cracked and she speaks honestly of the waste she’s made of her life. At least Steve had the war — all she has are dreams unfulfilled.

Soon, Steve has turned the crime scene into a shrine and Diane into someone he alternately worships, desires and fears. And the ending can only be a tragedy, right?

Diane is an interesting noir-ish film. The press kit has a review that describes it as “Jacob’s Ladder meets Memento,” which is pretty close. I just wish that all of the actors in the film were as solid as the leads. Some of the cop dialogue felt really forced, as did the bullying kids that fight Steve and the people he works with.

While there were times of brilliance when it comes to shot choice and lighting, there are many times when the film looks flat. However, I found more to enjoy than dismiss here. I’m interested to see what Mongillo, Smith and Avers do next.

Diane opens at LA’s Arena Cinelounge on September 7, then will be available nationwide on cable and digital VOD including iTunes, Amazon Instant, Google Play and Vudu September 17. For more information, visit the official site.

Disclaimer: I was sent this film by its PR team and in no way did that impact my review. Thanks!

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