(2018, 90 min)
Country: United States
Director: Charlie David
Shadowlands is an anthology style series that explores love in three separate stories - a couple renegotiating a relationship, a narcissist grasping to comprehend it, and star-crossed lovers mourning its loss. The series begins in 1928 with Alex, a plastic surgeon hell-bent on perfection, hosting a house party with an assortment of colorful guests. Amid romantic misfires it becomes apparent that the only person Alex is interested in is himself. Fast forward to 1951 and a gay military couple exploring the idea of opening their relationship while on a remote camping trip when they encounter a mysterious stranger.
The stories conclude in 2018 when a painter, mourning the loss of his lover, becomes obsessed with creating a realistic painting of him. The resulting piece is so beautiful and life-like that he is drawn under its spell.
Charlie Davidís Shadowlands is a compilation of his short works, a blend of paranormal, fantasy, and the contemporary that explores the basics of our shared human condition, ranging from an obsession with youth and beauty to love and relationships to a deep and all-encompassing grief. Three of the stories from the collection have been translated from page to screen in this miniseries, and while thematically they remain true to the originals, I love the updates theyíve been given for this project.
Shadowlands begins with Narcissus, a highly stylized, hedonistic and sensual remake of the story, set just after World War I. Dr. Alex Mandara is obsessed with perfection, in creating beauty where time would attempt to strip it, to enhance nature where genetics failed. Sean C. Dwyer offers viewers a chilling portrayal of the insanity of power and the power of insanity in this breathtaking articulation of cruelty and self-love. The setting, the details, the warped obsessions that control Alex also drives the retribution that sees him hoisted on his own petard, as karmic justice is served by Thalia (portrayed by Natasha Balakrishnan), the woman who once loved the man Alex was.
Mating Season, originally titled The Hiker, has been offered a makeover, which made me love this story even more; its paranormal elements stood out as a favorite in the book. The soundtrack adds to the period flavor of the 1951 setting, which, though its core elements are unchanged, gives the updated story a fresh new feel from the one I read, and is better for it. Will is an enlisted navy man who still has two years left to serve. He and his lover, Mateo, are stealing away together on a camping trip after a long six months of separation, spending their brief time together without fear of discovery, when they encounter a stranger. Daniel has been wandering the woods for weeks, drifting but not lost in the physical sense. His backstory offers a deep emotional resonance to this vignette, filled with sadness and longing and injustice, and the twist at the end means all the more for it. The lovemaking scenes in Mating Season are sensuous and beautifully filmed and choreographed. The scenery is idyllic, and the playful moments give a sense of joy to the story, adding to its impact as Matteo and Will negotiate and navigate their relationship.
Ending the trilogy is Pygmalion Revisited. If I were asked to choose a favorite, this episode would be it. Charlie David offers up a heart-wrenching performance as an artist who has been commissioned to do a piece for the Catholic church, but itís his all-consuming grief that informs this vignette. Heís lost the love of his life, and though itís been a year since Xavierís death, Rudy still doesnít know how to go on, his overwhelming pain consuming him as he pours his soul into his art. The joy of Pygmalion Revisited rests in the emotionally tangible love between Rudy and Xavier. Actor Marc Devigne brings Xavier to life, his joie de vivre radiating from the screen, making his decline into illness all the more sorrowful to witness. His vocal performances only add depth to his charm, while he and David complement each other in every way. They capture the elusive entity we call chemistry, and watching Rudyís descent after Xavierís loss was all the more palpable thanks to it. This was a perfect ending to this trilogy of stories, heartbreaking and poignant.
While there are more than a few other pieces from Shadowlands Iíd love to see translated for television, the three selected here are among my favorites from the book. They are each provocative and representative of the varied themes and elements David taps into in his writing. Beautifully filmed and scored and well-cast, this is a recommended watch whether youíve read the book or not.
-- Review by Lisa (http://www.thenovelapproachreviews.com)