A married couple, writer-turned-teacher Ben (Stephen Dorff) and Hazel (Melissa George), mourn the death of their young daughter following a tragic accident. They move to the west of Ireland in the hopes of opening a hotel and starting a new life. But when Ben starts having a recurring dream, he becomes convinced he can change the past and bring back their child.
Having directed the impressive ‘Cowboys & Angels’ (starring a very young Allen Leech) and ‘The Front Line’ in the 2000s, David Gleeson returns to feature filmmaking with ‘Don’t Go.’ Gleeson’s name recently popped up in industry news as he penned the script for the much-anticipated ‘Tolkien’ biopic. It’s more likely to be that title than this one that hails a comeback for the writer-director, for as earnest as ‘Don’t Go’ is, one can’t shake off its silliness.
‘Don’t Go’ recalls Netflix series ‘The OA’ as both seems to be dealing with alternate dimensions and the borders between life and death. But while ‘The OA’ is entertainingly bonkers, mind-bending in its creativity and design, and stunning to look at, ‘Don’t Go’ is just a downer. It’s slow-moving and contemplative with the final twist not providing a good pay-off.
It starts intriguingly enough with a striking oceanic opening credits sequence while the shot of Stephen Dorff (who has been earning high praise for his recent performance in ‘True Detective’ season 3, and is also an exec producer on ‘Don’t Go’) in a suit with arms outstretched as he floats above water gets you wondering what kind of movie you’re in for. There are hints that this could turn into a horror, and magical realism seems to have had an influence here as well as arthouse aesthetics. Unfortunately the CGI effects are distractingly cheap-looking.
Stephen Dorff’s brazen style of acting seems out of place and OTT for a movie of this scale. In the role of his wife, Melissa George’s acting style also feels stilted. At one point her character says “there’s magic here” about the couple’s new west coast home, and it’s such an American interpretation of Ireland that has been done by Hollywood to death that you can’t help but cringe. The classroom scenes are cliché though one bright spark at least can be found in Simon Delaney as the lively, charismatic priest that Dorff’s character befriends. The screen is invigorated whenever Delaney pops up. As for Aoibhinn McGinnity (‘Love/Hate’s Trish), you can commend the effort she puts into the part of the suicidal friend, but it’s all a bit much.
While you do grow to feel sad for the leading couple as the film progresses, you can’t help but wonder if it has come too late. The ending is strange and depressing in its existentialism. You’re left confounded at who this movie is meant for and what it’s supposed to mean.