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Straight after pulling a McConnaughey in True Detective season three, Stephen Dorff leads this Irish drama with a supernatural twist.
Best known for straight-to-DVD films, the odd collaboration with an auteur and of course Blade, the actor plays Ben. He is an American author living in Ireland with his wife Hazel (scream queen Melissa George). After their only child dies in an accident, the couple move to Galway to manage a hotel inherited to them. There, Ben begins to have strange lucid dreams which take him back to a seemingly random day he spent with his wife and daughter.
In order to see his child again – and becoming fixated on the notion that he can save her somehow – the writer begins using drink and drugs to escape into sleep. At the same time, a friend of the couple (played by rising star Aoibhinn McGinnity) shows up at their house unexpectedly. Perhaps she had a role in Ben’s child’s death.
Inspired by the similarly titled Don’t Look Now, Don’t Go aims to be a meditation on grief but filtered through a genre framework. It’s more successful at the latter, evoking heady sci-fi dramas like Source Code, Triangle (also starring Melissa George), as well as recent Netflix series Russian Doll. While not as sharp as these, the Irish film does take time to focus on the mental state of the character reliving the same day over again, adding a sense of urgency to their quest.
With Ben, we soon come to learn he feels responsible for his child’s death, believing that the recurring dream is his one shot at redemption. While the actor never fully convinces as a famous literary type, he really brings manic energy to his mental descent. Despite never becoming a full blown horror, Don’t Go certainly has a touch of The Shining. This is particularly as Dorff goes full Jack Torrance, at one point running around his hotel with a sledgehammer frantically searching for clues on how to accomplish his goal.
That said, while Don’t Go has a handful of moments which feel like an honest depiction of a couple going through trauma – particularly a bed set conversation between Ben and Hazel – it mostly focuses on the father grieving. George’s mother is given short shrift, disappearing for sections of the film. This is a shame given the little time we do spend with her helps anchor the drama in a recognisable reality.
McGinnity (whose impressed in brief roles in the short-lived series Nightflyers and Quarry) also is similarly not given much. This is frustrating too as her character is unique. She is suffering from grief and guilt but can’t share it with anyone out of shame. As that darkness festers, it manifests in self-destructive ways. This is an idea which if explored further could have made for a stronger more emotionally resonant movie.
Even with these flaws though, Don’t Go manages to be a melancholy mind-bender. It sticks the landing with a twisty final act and a satisfying ending which ties up all loose ends. While Ireland have in recent years conquered the horror genre, maybe its time for the country’s filmmakers to give sci-fi a go.