Evan Rachel Wood’s breakout movie was “Thirteen.” She played Tracy Louise Freeland, a teen who spiralled downward into a morass of drugs, sex, and petty crime. Her new film, “Allure,” is unrelated but feels like it could be a continuation of Tracy’s story.
Wood plays Laura Drake, a troubled 30-year-old woman who works for her father’s cleaning service. On one of her house calls she meets 16-year-old unhappy musical prodigy Eva (Julia Sarah Stone). As Eva’s mom (Maxim Roy) makes plans for them to move in with her boyfriend Laura befriends the girl, introducing her to pot and lending an understanding ear. When Eva explains why she is so unhappy—she doesn’t like the boyfriend and doesn’t want to move—Laura comes on strong. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” she says. “You don’t have to let your mother control your life!”
Seeing Eva’s tears Laura suggests a way out. “Come live with me.” Eva readily agrees and they leave without a word to anyone, including Eva’s mom. What begins as a break from Eva’s turbulent home life turns into a hostage situation when the police start poking around. “I’ll go to jail if they find out what I did to help you,” Laura says as she locks her young charge in a basement room, away from prying eyes. She is now an illegal guardian, kind of like a cool aunt, only with bad intentions.
When the furor over Eva’s disappearance dies down the two return to their version of normal life. Laura, an expert manipulator controls Eva physically and emotionally. “I say what you can and cannot do,” she hisses. As time goes on, whether it is Stockholm Syndrome or true emotion, they become a romantic couple as Laura spirals further out of control.
“Allure” is relentless in its downbeat look at life and relationships. A minor chord score underlines the overwrought drama, offering no relief from the deeply unpleasant story. Unpleasant is OK if it reveals inner truths about the characters but “Allure” rarely really gets under the skin of Laura or Eva. They make inexplicable choices and most importantly, there are few moments that feel truthful.