Starring: Jessica Falkholt, Jerome Meyer, Eamon Farren, Jacqueline McKenzie, Tessa James
Writers: Corey Pearson
Director: Corey Pearson
Production Company: FILM GRIT, Rhythmic Films, Cowlick Entertainment Group
This review CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
Expectations. They can mean quite a bit when it comes to movies. Blockbusters, for example, come with a set of high expectations. On the studio side, the expectations are that the box-office hauls exceed the budget. The higher the budget, the higher the expectations.
Meanwhile, viewers want a spectacle and, of course, their money’s worth. Expectations are either met or not and can make or break the relative success of a movie. Most often, expectations tend to be built in because of actors or directors associated, or even the source material. But sometimes, less is known, as in the case of Indie films. With tempered expectations, it’s refreshing to watch those with a neutral slate.
Harmony (2018) is an indie film from young Australian director Corey Pearson (Message Man). It centers around Harmony, a young woman who has the ability to absorb fear. When she does this, it calms and brings peace to the one she helps. However, it takes a toll on Harmony. Subtitled as The Five Frequencies: Part One, it was meant to be the first of a five-part series. It would have followed the story of five orphans – like Harmony – who each have a specific power that they develop and use in order to save humanity. The idea sounds intriguing. However, its application didn’t start out so well.
The premise of taking away fear, as the world is becoming more negative, is an interesting concept. However, in the various scenes where Harmony uses her power, it’s not so clear what she’s removing. In some scenes, there is no doubt. The people around her exude fear, and it’s what she removes. However, in others, it appears pain may be the real culprit. When she helps the woman at the party, it’s arguably a removal of pain rather than fear. Perhaps it’s what Pearson was trying to imply, but all accompanying descriptions of the movie clearly identify fear as the emotion. And the absorption isn’t the only questionable part of her powers. The method Harmony uses to rid herself of the fear raises questions as well.
Back at her apartment, Harmony has an oddly built shower. She uses it to cleanse and rid herself of the fear she’s taken in, and it allows her to be “normal” again. However, nothing is explained about the shower. Is the water she uses from the buckets special? It doesn’t appear to be. But then, if it isn’t, why not simply cleanse herself wherever there is water? It’s something that happens at the end. The use of water as a rinsing and cleansing agent makes sense. But an explanation, even if brief, could have resolved this slight frustration.
The story’s arc suggests that the pain Harmony suffers from her benevolent actions needs to be countered. Harmony needs love to achieve that balance and, apparently, find peace within herself. And she finds it. However, it is embodied in a man, Mason, who’s weird. He reminded me of a cross between Crispin Glover’s George McFly and Peter Sellers’s Chance the Gardener. When he and Harmony meet, it’s meant to be portrayed like some cosmic connection or Romeo and Juliet-like love. Maybe it’s the chemistry or the situations, but the movie doesn’t quite manage to pull it off.
The movie alternates its focus between the three main characters (Harmony, Mason, and Jimmy). With Harmony, too much of the action (or rather, lack of) is her walking, presumably searching for that missing “love.” With Mason, it’s similar, except that instead of being morose, he acts like that speechless kid who lays their eyes for the first time on the Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree. And finally, with Jimmy, we see what’s supposed to be the increased violence and cruelty of the world. The problem is that the three parts feel isolated from one another. Even when their worlds meet, it’s more like oil and water, rather than milk and coffee. They interact, but it lacks depth and integration. Ultimately, it’s difficult to get emotionally invested.
Perhaps Pearson, a young director with his own set of personal experiences and world observations, meant the movie to be an allegory. For that to work, the viewing experience needs to be far more involved and leave a lasting impression for some kind of after-viewing analysis, whether socially or individually, to take place. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, at least for me. The story felt disjointed and incomplete, likely a consequence of planning to tell it over five movies.
The actors did well, assuming they performed as directed. Jerome Meyer (Home and Away) plays the permanently awed and too innocent doe-eyed counter to Harmony. Jacqueline McKenzie (The 4400, Deep Blue Sea) plays his awkwardly protective mother who treats him like a child. Eamon Farren (Twin Peaks, The ABC Murders) plays Jimmy, the villain. As the leader of the gang, he’s very philosophical and mysterious. He foreshadows and makes cryptic statements, yet never clarifies the “why” of his hesitations. It’s a great performance, but also frustrating when trying to understand his role in the grand scheme. Lastly, there’s Jessica Farkholt (Home and Away) who plays the titular Harmony. She performs remarkably well for a role that relies heavily on non-verbal acting. Her ability to convey innocence and wisdom simultaneously was brilliant. Sadly, Farkholt passed away as a result of car crash injuries before the movie was released.
Some viewers will undoubtedly enjoy Harmony. There are some redeeming qualities to it, but it simply wasn’t one that I enjoyed much. Forced thinking, a result of reviews, allows me to go back and think, perhaps even overthink, about the various scenes and look for what worked and what didn’t. But that kind of in-depth analysis is unlikely to happen if the movie does not leave a lasting impression. Don’t expect a Lord of the Rings-type fantasy epic. Don’t expect much action. In fact, don’t expect much of anything. However, if you temper your expectations, then, well, you might just end up being surprised.