Afraid of Everything | Chicago Reader

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Nathalie Richard, who has done superb work with Jacques Rivette and Olivier Assayas, is the primary reason to see this 1999 black-and-white feature from director-writer David Barker. She plays a Frenchwoman who's been permanently injured in a car accident and now suffers from agoraphobia, which effectively traps her in the New York loft where she lives with her American architect husband. Her beautiful, free-spirited sister turns up, capturing the attention of the husband and the couple's circle of friends and intensifying Richard's anguish. The film's ambiguities and off-center moods are intelligently realized, and the claustrophobia and psychosexual underpinnings evoke Polanski films of the 60s and 70s (Repulsion, The Tenant). But ultimately Barker's style drains the life from the film, making it feel like an academic exercise as it becomes increasingly inert, emotionally and dramatically. Richard and Sarah Adler, the impressive young Belgian actress who plays her sister, have some fine moments together—Richard's face can register a deep range of responses—but Barker doesn't give their characters the shape and complexity they deserve. 80 min.

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