Laura Drake (Evan Rachel Wood) is deeply troubled and that psychological state expresses itself in different ways. Take tonight, when she takes a man to a motel room to have sex with him, but ends up behaving so aggressively that he is horrified, and the encounter essentially turns into her raping him, however that works. He manages to throw her off him and leave, as she insults him verbally, but worse is to come as Laura has been having problems recently with the law, since she was involved with a stalking case with herself as the criminal. So, when the cleaning job her father William (Denis O'Hare) secures her at his firm seems like a positive development, it really isn't.
It should be stated that Allure (a popular title for films in the twenty-tens for some reason) did not show its hand immediately, so you were not aware of everything about Laura right away and had to do a spot of joining the dots to build a picture of her psychological issues, but one major indication of that was her attraction to Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), the tiny, fragile sixteen-year-old going through a rough patch with her divorced mother Nancy (Maxim Roy). Laura is supposed to be cleaning their house, no more, no less, but once her eyes alight on the girl the twentysomething decides she must possess her and finds excuses to chat with her with a view to taking this further.
Laura does this by taking advantage of Eva's fractured relationship with Nancy by popping in after they have had a massive argument, and inviting Eva back to her house, one which has been paid for by her father. Is this connection to William one born of guilt on his part, and victimisation on Laura's? It is hinted that he could have abused her in the past, and that sent her off the rails, but then again it is somewhat vague, and he could simply be guilty of not looking after her properly when she suffered her first breakdown. Whatever has happened, she is going about coping with her mental health about as badly as it's possible to imagine without actually killing herself or someone else.
What she does instead is essentially keep Eva in her house, initially locked up in a bedroom to stop her getting away, and then once she has instigated a kind of Stockholm Syndrome which may be because the teenager is flattered by such obsessive attention and it makes her feel important, Laura sets about making a girlfriend out of her. This includes a sexual relationship, which is guaranteed to make audiences uncomfortable - imagine if she was an older man doing this, and you understand the point of equivalency the writers and directors Carlos Sanchez and Jason Sanchez are making, therefore at no point is this presented as some barely admitted sexual fantasy, it is a depiction of sexual abuse in its most manipulative form, the power play. Needless to say, both actresses were fearless here, including their inevitable breakdowns.
That said, there's only so much of this you can take before you start to wonder why you're putting yourself through this sort of material, as there was not a great amount of insight here when you were left, as a viewer, to put the pieces of the jigsaw together yourself. Not that Allure should have had a commentary or a big sign at the end spelling out the moral, but by being so circumspect about becoming a case history it went too far the other way, and you found yourself watching a collection of people making themselves utterly miserable with no helpful lesson at the end of it other than "Please don't get abused - and don't abuse others, either!" The revenge rape of Laura was just another example of the film wallowing in emotional desolation, which can be cathartic for some, but could also have the effect of leaving others pondering their viewing choices, no matter how well-acted it was. There's only so much screaming and crying you can endure, particularly as a resolution was not on offer. Music by Olivier Alary.
[ALLURE will be released in cinemas nationwide (UK & Ireland) from 18 May 2018.]