Reviewed by Jonathan Berk
Director Kelley Kali’s film Jagged Mind is a mix of films like Groundhog Day and Unsane. It stars Maisie Richardson-Sellers as Billie, who slowly enters a relationship with Alex (Shannon Woodward). It becomes apparent to the audience that something isn’t quite right, as scenes begin to loop with slight variations. However, Billie’s blackouts and memory loss are easily tossed aside as early stages of dementia, a condition she likely inherited from her mother. As visions begin to accompany her blackouts, Billie suspects there is something more going on than she initially believed.
Richardson-Sellers gives a good performance as Billie. There is a lot asked of her between repeating scenes with slight variations, and then dealing with the various revelations in the story. Woodward's performance is sometimes a little more wooden. There is a stiffness that comes as part of the role the character plays, but she never quite clicks into who Alex is supposed to be. It’s like she has an idea of who Alex is, but is unsure of how to fully realize the character. It’s possible, though, that this problem stems from the script, not the performance.
Overall, the story moves well, and the boxes are checked as Billie goes through the various stages familiar with loop stories. Sometimes the dialogue feels a little too stilted, and even though the words are spoken by characters, it feels like we are reading a text message exchange. Lines of dialogue feel too blunt and end abruptly, as though displayed in a bubble with minimal inflection on any of the words. For a horror film that deals so much with a relationship, this inhuman form of speaking feels odd. It’s not always noticeable, but Alex’s character often feels the most impacted by the unusual dialogue. There is some justification for this in the story, but it still never felt like it fit the mood the film was going for.
The overall look and vibe of the Jagged Mind works, though. Whether it is the atmospheric lighting, the gorgeous production design, or the feel of the art-infused world that Billie inhabits, the movie does manage to suck you in. Thus, it’s easy to root for Billie, and hope she can figure out what’s going on. We’re informed of other bad relationships she’s been unable to fully escape from, and we want Alex to be a good one. It’s clear early that this is probably not the situation, as these blackouts and visions seem to suggest this could be the worst relationship anyone could find themselves trapped in. Still, there is enough going on to keep audiences engaged throughout.
Jagged Mind is available on Hulu on June 15.