Dave McKean is one of the architects of the 90s; a dark illustrator, his busy but whimsical images set a tone for many brooding album covers and drama students. When he took his skills to task as a director for the first time in 2005, with MirrorMask, it felt like a bit much, a little lost in its own world, though that could be pinned on co-writer Neil Gaiman, who’s got a tendency for that very problem. In Luna, an original feature based on a tragedy which happened to two of McKean’s friends, there was an opportunity to show the potential of his style. And the potential is there, it’s the balancing that is a little off.
Grant (Ben Daniels) and Christina (Dervla Kirwan) are still recovering. Two years ago, their infant passed away soon after being born, and while the couple still struggle to make sense of their lives, they decide to reconnect with Dean (Michael Maloney), a member of their art school clique turned successful illustrator, at his isolated seaside estate. Not all is as it seems with Christina and Grant, however. Not only are the two withholding some daunting secrets and insecurities, they’re also plagued with hallucinations, extreme lapses of fantasy that can take them at any moment.
Traumatic escapism is an interesting use of McKean’s uncanny style, and it’s a reserved and clever tool. While those segments can still stray close to first time playwright territory, the more animated and abstract they are, the better they shine. When he’s animating his noted streams of consciousnesses, it feels like we’re on board with the real deal, and in the years since MirrorMask, McKean’s become much better at selling his visions.
When it’s just human actors, that’s when things begin to drag. A lot of dinner table conversations. A lot of rhetoric. At its strongest, there’s a clearly too-close-to-home argument about the role of fantasy art in a decaying world. At its worst it’s the most dramatic scene about a bottle of wine tipping over. Most of the time it’s discussions going in one ear and out the other. Luna is an interesting concept for a cottage drama, but as it stands feels more like a long gallery reception for McKean’s ensemble of work. (Zack Kotzer)
Sunday, September 14th, 8:45pm, Scotiabank 9