Directed by Lorcan Finnegan.
Starring Eva Green, Chai Fonacier, Mark Strong, and Billie Gadsdon.
Unable to figure out the cause behind her recent health problems, Christine accepts a nanny’s help despite not remembering that she hired her.
Christine (Eva Green) is in the middle of a fashion show for her new line of children’s clothes when she steps out to answer the phone. Eight months later, she’s wearing an oxygen mask to bed.
What was the phone call about? With only “pulling out bodies” to work with from Christine’s side of the conversation, screenwriter, Garret Shanley, starts knocking out options, with Christine’s daughter, Bobs (Billie Gadson), and then her husband, Felix (Mark Strong), revealed to be safe and sound.
That leaves the dog, but it’s such a strange encounter that it doesn’t so much answer the question of what’s behind Christine’s ailing health but makes it more of a mystery. Immediately after hanging up the phone Christine notices a dog, badly burned, standing behind a curtain. The dog may be a figment of her imagination, but the tick it shakes off is real, and in any case, Christine is in bad shape eight months later when Diana (Chai Fonacier) shows up at her door.
According to Diana, Christine reached out to her about working as a live-in nanny at the house and, since memory loss is one of the problems Christine has been suffering from, she takes her at her word. It’s not like she couldn’t use the help and if Diana’s Filipino folk medicine can do better than the pills she’s been taking lately, it’s a win-win situation. However, as Diana’s intentions become increasingly suspicious, it’s not just Christine’s casually racist husband who will be suspecting foul play.
As anyone who’s seen Green go through a séance on Penny Dreadful can attest, no one does feral physicality better than her, and it makes Christine’s panic over her failing body all the more intense. The downside of Nocebo is that the connection between Christine and Diana is pretty easy to parse out, and the film doesn’t have any other cards to play, so it’s basically a waiting game until all of the details are confirmed.
Instead of making Diana an enigma who shows up out of nowhere to menace the family, it does feel refreshing that the film devotes time to fleshing out her backstory and showing what her life was like in the Philippines. There’s also a little bit of reverse psychology, in terms of making Felix unlikable so that when he starts accusing Diana of “voodoo,” there’s a desire to want to want to disregard his concerns, even though Diana does appear to be up to something.
While on the one hand more could’ve been done with the Philippine folklore or details like Christine’s red shoes (which are emphasized repeatedly but don’t really have a satisfying payoff), it’s the price of having Diana work alone. There aren’t many opportunities for her to explain what she’s doing to another person.
Nocebo raises questions about accountability and justice that are in need of a reckoning, but, for the purposes of suspense, the narrative would’ve hit harder as a short film.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★