i_believe_in_unicorns_2Year: 2015
Director: Leah Meyerhoff
Writer(s): Leah Meyerhoff
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Rating: N/A
8mm, 16mm, Color, 80 mins

Synopsis: A road trip through the stunning and complex landscape of troubled young love.. (Source)

We all live in the reality that we create. The way we see things is not necessarily the truth or what other people will also see. It’s this gulf between expectation and reality that I Believe in Unicorns explores through an intimate portrait of young love. Told with artful poeticism and raw realism, Leah Meyerhoff’s feature debut carries a distinctive perspective on the coming of age genre that’s anchored by some strong performances, and plenty of substance to compliment its style.

Like any teenager, Davina (Natalia Dyer) wants more. She collects polaroids, doodles and loves unicorns, with an active imagination that her grim real life just can’t compete with. Growing up as the primary caregiver of her ill mother, she’s been tethered to home and a repetitious cycle of duty that’s left her wondering what else could be out there. Then, on her birthday, she meets a long-haired skateboarder named Sterling (Peter Vack), an older guy who she instantly becomes smitten with. The two connect immediately, with Davina seeing their relationship as an escape, and the two literally embark on a journey to get as far away from their hometown as they can. As the pair run away from responsibility they slowly start to realize that avoiding their problems may only work for so long before reality comes defiantly crashing through.

Meyerhoff tells her story with an impressive, confident sense of style that draws us into Davina’s whimsical world. From the grainy, impressionistic photography to the poetic, alliterative visuals which feature sequences of beautiful stop motion animation, light paintings and Malick-esque narration, this is a sensory exploration of teenage love, lust and confusion that weaves flights of fantasy with unexpected turns of darkness. Like Davina and Sterling’s rocky relationship, the film shifts tones at the flick of a switch, telling a high school fairy tale that confidently keeps one foot in reality to contrast Davina’s self imposed idealism with the harsher realities of the world around her. In the end, she learns that her happiness isn’t up to someone else, the power is hers alone – a strong message for younger viewers offering universal insight to transcend the youthful story.

i_believe_in_unicorns_3Needless to say, the film’s road trip narrative focuses all of our attention on the two leads who play the story’s troubled lovebirds. As Davina, Natalia Dyer is exceptional. She is easily the film’s anchor, drawing us deep into her character’s world and portraying an innocence and vulnerability that is mesmerizing. Her character embraces her femininity throughout, and exhibits an honest kind of bravery that is bound to turn heads. As Sterling, Vack handles the role’s duality well. Constantly shifting between a charming prince of an archetype and a deplorable dirtbag, he keeps us and Davina on our toes as his true character is slowly revealed. The two performers are great opposite of each other, offering a candidness that keeps us involved.

Ultimately, Meyerhoff’s film is about not letting the disappointing truth of reality bring us down – it’s about working things out despite not being able to always see the big picture and coming out unscathed. As a portrait of teenage angst, confusion and sexual awakening, it’s an introspective, pensive take that isn’t afraid to sugarcoat things but still remains hopeful. I Believe in Unicorns takes a familiar story, spins it with authenticity while heralding the arrival of some talent to be reckoned with.


Opening in Los Angeles, June 19th at the Arena Cinema.