In A Worthy Companion, Evan Rachel Wood tears into the role of Laura, a troubled young woman whose icy exterior barely masks a lifetime of hardship and trauma. Working as a house cleaner for her father’s company (with whom she has a rocky relationship) and living in a drab suburban house by herself, Laura keeps herself isolated, with the exception of sporadic rough sexual encounters with random guys. Then she meets 16-year-old Eva (Julia Sarah Stone) while on the job and a bond forms. Eva is shy and unhappy herself, constantly under the eye of her critical mother, and the two quickly find comfort in each other.
The debut feature from Canadian fine-art photographers Carlos and Jason Sanchez aims for a moody tale of obsessive love but gets undermined by a muddled script that doesn’t nearly seem developed enough. Once Laura convinces Eva to run away from home and live with her in secret, the movie takes a leap into the unbelievable that it never fully recovers from, mainly due to the fact that the story is completely locked into Laura’s perspective. As she gets more and more unhinged and possessive, it’s hard to understand why Eva would continue to stay.
Julia Sarah Stone has been a fast rising star on the Canadian film scene over the last few years, garnering acclaim in movies like Lindsay Mackay’s Wet Bum and Bruce McDonald’s Weirdos, but her character is woefully underdeveloped here. I understand that teenagers can be naïve and easily swayed by manipulative adults, but once Laura starts yelling and berating her out of anger and jealousy, even locking her in the basement one day while she goes to work, the fact that she doesn’t walk away when she easily can causes frustration, particularly when her problems with her mother seem mostly of the garden variety teen angst type. Fleshing out Eva’s character so we understood the reasons behind her attachment to this new situation would have helped – instead, Stone just fixes a deer-in-the-headlights look the entire time and we learn nothing.
Meanwhile, even Laura’s past traumas are kept at arm’s length, despite the fact that she’s essentially in every scene. Certain things are hinted at but we also don’t get enough to fully invest in this character, especially as her behaviour rapidly becomes more unsettling. Luckily, Evan Rachel Wood is so magnetic and committed to the role that we feel more than we otherwise would, especially through some admittedly harrowing scenes in the last act.
The Sanchez brothers obviously have a good visual eye and reliable character actor Denis O’Hare provides some great support as Laura’s father, but this is a script that definitely could have used a few more drafts to let the story sink in.
Is A Worthy Companion essential viewing?
Not quite. Despite some intriguing ideas and strong work from Wood, A Worthy Companion never really coheres.