Inside the halls of an elite arts academy, a timid music student named Juliet Lowe (Sydney Sweeney) begins to outshine her more accomplished and outgoing twin sister when she discovers a mysterious notebook belonging to a recently deceased classmate.
Horror movies are seemingly everywhere these days, and that’s not something that I’m going to complain about. After all, horror is my favorite genre in any form of entertainment medium, whether it be film, television, novels, etc. To me, there is nothing quite as exhilarating and enthralling as watching or reading something that manages to chill you right to the bone.
But, rarely do you see a horror film that is centered around music, but Zu Quirke’s Nocturne is that one exception. It follows an excellent young piano player that wants nothing more than to be the greatest piano player out there. She has played the piano ever since she was a little girl and wants to have her career in music.
Her older sister Vivian (Madison Iseman) also happens to play the piano at the exact same school and she gets much more attention than Juliet. Many professors and students find that her level of skill is a little bit better than her sister’s, which causes Juliet to get incredibly jealous. She wants the spotlight to be on her one-hundred percent of the time and she wants to be told that she is great.
One of the best scenes in the movie shows Juliet yelling at her music teacher for saying that he also thought that Vivian’s expertise in the field is stronger. From beginning to end, Nocturne is a relentlessly thrilling and slow-burning psychological horror drama that won’t necessarily scare you but will leave you feeling rather unsettled.
There is something remarkably odd and eerie in this world that Zu Quirke built for the film. Everything feels jarring for some reason, but it’s all done on purpose. It’s one of those movies that has dialogue only when it’s absolutely necessary. Granted, some of the dialogue feels a little bit cheap and somewhat generic for a long while, but once you understand where this story is going, which does take some effort, it becomes a rewarding watch.
However, if there is something that deserves immense praise here, it would easily have to be Sydney Sweeney’s performance as the lead character Juliet. I have been a fan of Sweeney’s for quite some time now. She was an absolute revelation in the hit HBO teen drama series Euphoria, she delivered a subtle but strong performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, amongst many others. This is definitely one of the strongest performances I have ever seen from her. It may actually be her best.
Throughout the entire film, she feels so raw and unsanitized. You get the sense that she is hiding something sinister and chaotic in every single scene and you are just waiting for her to explode. Watching her performance was enthralling. It’s one of those performances that definitely should get attention during the awards season, but it more than likely won’t which is a big shame.
Many people are going to watch Nocturne and say that it was a relatively boring movie that doesn’t really have anything to say. Some people will say that nothing of real interest happens in it. And while I would somewhat agree for the first thirty minutes, the rest of the film is a dark and depressing thrill-ride that never lets up and is further boosted by Sweeney’s magnificent performance.
Nocturne starts off somewhat slow but eventually transforms into an enthralling psychological thrill-ride further boosted by its magnificent lead performance from Sydney Sweeney.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: N/A
Directed by: Zu Quirke
Distributed by: Amazon Studios
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Running Time: 90 minutes