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Non-Review Review: All About Eva

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015.

All About Eva has ambition to burn.

It is a modern film noir set against the backdrop of the Irish racing scene, filmed mostly on a single stately country home and with a functional budget that seems minuscule even by the standards of independent Irish film. The fact that it exists is a testament to everybody involved. The fact that it comes very close to working is icing on the cake. All About Eva is a very stylish piece of work that very clearly has a lot of ambition behind it. It is a trashy revenge saga that is produced with a very high level of competence. In particular, director Ferdia MacAnna does great work.

However, ambition is only so much. As good as the film looks relative to its budget, there are a number of key structural flaws that cannot support the weight heaped upon them. Most obviously, All About Eva is an attempt to hark back to the classic femme fatale movies, with a seductive and manipulative young woman infiltrating a racing dynasty so as to dismantle it from the inside. All About Eva lives or dies based on that central performance. Newcomer Susan Walsh simply does not have the ability to carry the movie around her.

To be fair, Walsh is let down by an uneven and scattered script, which revels in cliché. All About Eva is a film that seems wryly aware of its own trite plot beats and dialogue, but that self-awareness can only carry a film so far. There is a point where homage is not enough to sustain a genre pastiche. All About Eva comes surprising close to working, and has an energy that is almost infectious. Unfortunately, it cannot make it over the line.


All About Eva had an interesting origin story. It was originally pitched as a web series – a collection of short films that would stitch together to form a cohesive narrative. When that idea fell through, the script was stitched together from these various segments and pieces. As a result, there are five credited writers on the script – along with a “story by” credit to director Ferdia MacAnna and a script supervisor tasked with stitching it all together. That is a lot of material to fashion into a quilt.

This original structure is reflected in the finished product. All About Eva feels almost episodic in nature. There are obviously big moments of set-up and pay-off throughout the film’s runtime, but there is also a sense that the script is advancing in five-minute chunks. For example, a character who becomes pretty crucial to the narrative is only introduced about half-way through the film. It feels like that character (and the arc associated with that character) would flow smoothly if integrated from the start.

Similarly, there are plot beats that feel almost suffocated – as if entire episodes in the plot have been reduced down to two minutes of dialogue between characters. All About Eva features the most forced and contrived central love story this side of the Star Wars prequels, with the characters exchanging about four sentences before finding themselves involved in an illicit love affair. The fact that there is a minimal amount of chemistry between the actors doesn’t help matters, either.

There are extended sequences where All About Eva does feel like an abridged web series. Scenes are generally quite short, because there is a lot of material to cover; a web series would obviously have a longer cumulative runtime than this feature film does. So scenes are shortened, and dialogue is honed to trite cliché and awkward exposition. There is a sense that All About Eva might have been a much stronger film had the production team gone back to the board with it, refined and honing the core story instead of whittling away at scripts.

That said, there is a lot to like here. After all, the world of horse racing lends itself to these sorts of grand melodramas about feuding families and secret vendettas. This is a world governed by blood and money, where it is easy enough to construct grand metaphors that tie the sport to those involved with it. That seemed to be the core theme of HBO’s ill-fated Luck, and there are points where All About Eva coasts on the brilliance of setting a family melodrama in the Kildare horse-racing scene.

Unfortunately, All About Eva doesn’t have a strong enough cast to carry a flawed script. All About Eva is a modern film noir about a young woman desperately out for revenge. As the title implies, it all hinges on the character of Eva. Susan Walsh is not quite up to the task of carrying a ninety minute movie on her own. She makes a valiant effort, but her delivery feels a little awkward and staged, and it never seems like she owns the camera in the way that she needs to. Walsh is an actress with potential, and it is not her fault she cannot single-handedly elevate a troubled script.

Still, All About Eva has an endearing confidence about itself. The budget for the film was tiny, but director Ferdia MacAnna does a great job making the production look stylish. While the dialogue might be a little awkward, MacAnna’s visual homages to classic film noir are quite charming. All About Eva uses delightfully old-fashioned scene transitions set to ambient sound – a technique that makes All About Eva feel like a recovered artefact. There are lots of dutch angles, and some very effective establishing shots.

All About Eva doesn’t work. But it comes closer to working than it really should. It is a very flawed piece of work, but those flaws are rooted in a clear enthusiasm and excitement that is hard to condemn. Even if it is impossible to completely endorse.

All audience members are asked to rank films in the festival from 1 (worst) to 4 (best). In the interest of full and frank disclosure, here is my score: 2

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