Salman Rushdie once wrote, “Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that’s what.” It’s a quote that resonates throughout “Lavender,” a new psychological thriller starring Abbie Cornish as a woman whose ghostly, fragmented memories haunt her.
In this elegant and eerie movie from “The Last Exorcism II” director Ed Gass-Donnelly, Cornish stars as Jane, a photographer who snaps pictures of old, dilapidated homes. One house in particular seems to have a draw on her, but after photographing it she has visions, one of which cause her to run her car off the road. Suffering memory loss, she undergoes therapy to stimulate repressed memories, a treatment that works all too well. Soon strange boxes appear, seeming to be clues to a past she had long ago left behind. Jane’s unfinished business comes flooding back in the form of long forgotten memories of a tragic and unsettling event.
“Lavender” is a hallucinatory study of the hidden horrors of the mind, a look at false memories and how they can be used as a shield from madness. It follows a well-trodden path—previously explored in mind movies like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Shining”—but Gass-Donnelly’s deliberate, almost trance-like direction lends plenty of atmosphere to the story. He effectively milks an emotional response with an anxiety inducing score by Sarah Neufeld and Colin Stetson and an assured performance from Cornish.
Cornish is at the very center of “Lavender,” grounded and eerie at the same time, she’s a sympathetic character with a hint of menace. This character driven story gives Cornish the chance to explore the psychological implications of a woman uncovering her uncertain past.