One must give writer/director Castille Landon credit where it is due: she certainly begins Fear of Rain in a place of fitting disorientation. One minute, our heroine is being chased through a dark forest by nameless foes, before a cut reveals the entire scenario to be happening inside her head. Rain (Madison Iseman) is really being held to a hospital bed after a psychotic episode. The nameless foes are the team of doctors and nurses looking after her, as well as her parents John (Harry Connick Jr.) and Michelle (Katherine Heigl). This reveal comes to sum up a lot about Landon’s movie, in which what goes wrong and what goes right occur in about equal measure.

That is to say, this is a film whose primary job seems to be to jerk its viewers around until what arrives is the distinct sensation of not really caring about the events of its plot, the truths about its characters, and the surprises of the story’s twists. Landon isn’t in the game of playing fair with the audience here, and her treatment of mental illness as the tool of a generic psychological thriller is the first clue.

Rain suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and Landon’s screenplay rests entirely within her mindset for nearly all of its 109 minutes. This means several things for the film, which follows (for a time, at least) Rain’s investigation into the seeming disappearance of a child in her neighborhood. First, we are obviously meant to distrust anything we actually witness in the story. Landon, cinematographer Joshua Reis and editor Morgan Halsey accomplish this task with some skill and an intelligent approach to the visual language here, only incorporating a few minor in-camera tricks to suggest that things are not what they seem to Rain or, by extension, us.

The second thing is that the film must layer its bits of misdirection atop themselves, so that the ultimate twist is untrustworthy, even as a twist. Landon’s mode of operation seems to be to offer up so many red herrings within the plot that we’re never quite certain which clue is meaningful.

It seems that the missing child might be in the basement of Mrs. McConnell (Eugenie Bondurant), Rain’s neighbor and a teacher at her school, but is there a child? Is the woman, whose appearance (because of Bondurant’s lanky frame and cold eyes) is slightly off-kilter, really a threat? Is there even a crime here? To the chagrin and eventual anger of her parents, Rain begins dating and employing the help of Caleb (Israel Broussard), a nice boy in town, of whose existence no one but Rain is certain. Does Caleb exist? Is he simply an extension of Rain’s own investigative qualities?

We aren’t sure if any or all of this is meaningful, and that begins to be part of the problem with the film’s very constitution. It also contributes to the third and final thing, which is that, eventually, the film must find an emotional component intriguing enough for us to truly care about anything that’s happening here. Iseman’s performance is fine but not enough to elevate the material, and there might be something to that final twist, which tries to rewrite what we have learned until this point but becomes latched to an actor (not to be revealed here, of course) who is thoroughly unable to sell the point.

That’s the problem. Fear of Rain wants us to stew within a seemingly broken mind, but it doesn’t have the conviction to explore deeper than what it offers to us – the simple beats of a psychological thriller.

Summary
Landon isn’t in the game of playing fair with the audience here, and her treatment of mental illness as the tool of a generic psychological thriller is the first clue.
50 %
Far Too Twisty
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