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Review: Nocturne

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Nocturne features a lead performance from Sydney Sweeney as Juliet, a twin sister that finally begins to outshine her sister, that is involving and intriguing. She carries the picture even as it abandons any sense of lore that it could build. That lore or rather the lack of it renders the ending of the film baffling. It also robs Juliet of an agency. She is battling against anything but rather reduced to a petty and vengeful sister.

The story is a bit of a Black Swan rip-off, exchanging piano for ballet. Writer-director Zu Quirke certainly has talent for creating an ominous mood but her storytelling isn't as powerful. Juliet and her twin Vivian (Madison Iseman) are constantly in competition. Vivian gets into Julliard while Juliet is ledt to be told she isn't quite at the same level as her sister. Things change though when Juliet finds the notebook of a star violinist at their arts academy who recently jumped off a building and committed suicide.

The notebook contains music and a bunch of satanic-esque drawings. Juliet begins to play the music inside and dramatically improves her abilities. Soon she is better than Vivian and begins to alienate all those around her. Sweeney delivers a muted performance than works well here however the screenplay rarely gives the audience much interiority. Everyone says she is different but it is hard to tell as a viewer because we know so little about her.

Nocturne far too often relies on spooky visions that Juliet sees to build tension but the visions are never given much meaning. Quirke uses them as ways to get out of a scene, opting to fade to black rather than give audiences a better understanding of what the drawings, visions and sudden improvement of talent means. The supernatural elements take a back-seat to the sibling rivalry which renders the final conclusion baffling.

Good performances, a nice sense of mood and solid cinematography all help make this look better than a television episode. However, Nocturne doesn't have enough ideas or lore to build it into an impactful film. I wish it had given Juliet curiosity as one of her character traits. Maybe then she would question more about what is happening to her, what happened to the student who committed suicide and how to prevent it from happening to her. 3/5


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