Review by Sean Boelman
Co-written and directed by Matthew Pope, Blood on Her Name is a new drama-thriller with an intriguing premise. However, although Pope eventually manages to stick the ending, it takes far too long for the film to get moving for it to be anything more than a bunch of good ideas in a smattering of great scenes.
The movie follows a young woman as her conscious weighs on her following an accidental killing, causing her to return the body to the victim’s family and sending her life into a tailspin. Unlike what one would expect, the film starts immediately after the killing, throwing the audience right into the action along with the protagonist. In so doing, Pope and co-writer Don M. Thompson allow the audience to question themselves.
After this abrupt beginning, the movie slows down to a much weaker pace, and while there are still some very good things happening throughout, none is as shocking and effective as the killer way in which kicks off. Ultimately, Pope and Thompson set the bar too high for original decisions, as the rest of the film is a disappointingly run-of-the-mill thriller.
Yet even though this introduction creates some really interesting subtext, it creates some distance between the character and the audience. If the movie seemed to be taking a morally ambiguous stance towards the character, this would have worked well, but there are scenes in which it is obvious that the audience is supposed to be rooting for her.
Eventually, it becomes clear that the film is far less concerned with the ethics of the situation than the way in which the protagonist is emotionally affected by her actions. Although this does help the movie stand out, since it is hard to connect with the character, it isn’t quite able to drive home all of the themes that it seemingly hopes to explore.
Bethany Anne Lind gives a powerful performance in her leading role, playing the character with nuance. There are multiple scenes that require her to be vulnerable, particularly in the final act, and she shines in these parts of the film. Will Patton is also impressive in his supporting turn, although he is significantly underused.
On a technical level, Pope is obviously competent and knows what he is doing, although the conscious visual style of the movie doesn’t always work. The film obviously wants to be gritty, and the cinematography, production design, and editing all create a sense of discomfort. However, at times, Pope does come across like he is trying too hard to elicit this mood and the movie falls flat as a result.
Blood on Her Name shows that Matthew Pope has some interesting ideas in play, but he doesn’t seem to know where to focus his attention to bring out the best in the script. It’s watchable, but more often than not, it feels like it could have been more.
Blood on Her Name hits theaters and VOD on February 28.