As long as writer-director Ed Gass-Donnelly’s psychological thriller, “Lavender,” raises questions instead of answering them, the film is effectively atmospheric with a polished visual style, an eerie score and a strong cast all doing plenty to hold the audience’s attention. It’s only when the movie starts to become more grounded that it falls flat.
Abbie Cornish plays Jane, a mildly amnesic photographer who sees long-buried parts of her memory bubble back up after a horrific car crash. She particularly recalls her family’s old farmhouse, now looked after by her Uncle Patrick (Dermot Mulroney).
Diego Klattenhoff plays Jane’s husband, Alan, who along with their daughter, Alice (Lola Flanery), gets increasingly irritated as her psychologist (Justin Long) encourages her to pursue her subconscious wherever it may lead. Soon they’re all out in the country, receiving mysterious packages and being haunted by the remnants of a horrific old crime — the explanation for which quickly becomes disappointingly predictable.
Gass-Donnelly has a great eye and brings some genuine beauty to his movie’s rural setting. The preoccupation with aesthetics though means that “Lavender” is sometimes quieter, slower and artier than the material warrants.
The biggest problem with this approach is that the portentousness points the way to a payoff that should be more powerful than it turns out to be. “Lavender” means well, but it ultimately proves that not all ghosts need a backstory. Often, just being scary — even inexplicably — is more important than being meaningful.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinelounge at the Montalban, Hollywood