Predator. Abuser. Victim. Psychopath.
All these words describe the deeply complicated character Laura, played by Evan Rachel Wood in Carlos and Jason Sanchez’s disturbing psycho-sexual portrait “Allure.” Within the first few minutes, we witness Laura commit a violent sexual act against a man that quickly turns nonconsensual. After that, she moves on to grooming a new target — a young teenage girl, Eva (a haunting Julia Sarah Stone), whose home she cleans.
Using Eva’s difficult relationship with her mother as a wedge, Laura skillfully lures her prey into her home, turns her into her lover, keeps her trapped physically and psychologically. It’s a portrait of a classic abusive relationship, and Wood is terrifying in portraying Laura’s manipulative skill, her explosions of rage, the ease with which she lies.
“Allure” is powered by Wood’s intense charisma. Laura deploys her magnetic gaze as a weapon, though the destruction she wreaks is most often directed at herself. The character’s situation is always untenable, and as it collides with inevitability, the co-writer-director Sanchez brothers lose the tight grip of control they’ve maintained over the story.
Laura is clearly disturbed, and we seek to understand the root of her actions. But the way the filmmakers place the blame elsewhere, throwing the one character with a seemingly moral compass under the bus, feels haphazard and wraps up too neatly to fully buy into. The story would like to redeem Laura, but after what we witness, does she even deserve it?
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood