Title: Charge Over You
Director: Regardt Steenekamp
Starring: Danya Cox, Dominic Deutscher, James Lee, Jacqui Hall, Brenton Thwaites, Ray Croft
An Australian, college-set love triangle drama studded with a few supernatural elements, ‘Charge Over You’, which just had its U.S. premiere as part of the 14th annual Dances With Films festival, is an earnest, low-budget freshman effort, marked by all the sorts of sincerity and shortcoming which that tag frequently implies.
The plot centers around college student Sarah (freshfaced newcomer Danya Cox), who slips into a seemingly irretrievable funk after witnessing a fellow student pass away. That death, you see, brings back memories of Sarah’s dear, beloved and also recently departed mother, whose death she hasn’t really been able to discuss with her father (Ray Croft). Her teacher (Jacqui Hall) warns Sarah, an aspirant doctor, that she’s in danger of losing her scholarship if she doesn’t buckle down and commit to a “Logic 201” term paper on a creation myth subject (!), but Sarah lets herself be continually led astray, first by Dane (James Lee) — a blond, wraith-like, slightly menacing figure who seems to have stepped out of either the ‘Twilight’ or ‘Harry Potter’ franchises, possibly both — and then by UCLA transfer student Mike (Dominic Deutscher), a sort of Central Casting nice guy. Observing all of these goings-on from friendship alley, meanwhile, is Sam (Brenton Thwaites), a bespectacled, wishy-washy do-gooder who’s always encouraging Sarah to study and do her work.
Without truly giving much of anything away, ‘Charge Over You’, written by Julia Matthews and directed by Regardt Steenekamp, bears all the hallmarks of a slice of adolescent tortured psyche/imaginary friend cinema, mainly since Dane keeps popping up in Sarah’s room unannounced. Rather than freak her out, however, she always blithely accepts his excuse, thrice-repeated, if not more, that her “door was open.” In essence, the movie tips its hand far too early. There’s no suspense or drama or worry about Sarah’s corporeal safety. Dane is obviously less a real character than a figure/device, so the movie unfolds as an exercise of time-whiling, waiting to see exactly how he is outed, and what the motivations might be.
The performances help all of this go down at least a bit more smoothly. Whereas so many young American actors — be it because of television training or myriad other factors — would amp up the emoting and deploy stressed, declarative speech rhythms, the Australian actors here (with the exception of the creepy Lee, who’s acting on advice of counsel one supposes, and in his own separate movie) trade in slightly more restrained and realistic strokes, making for some pleasant, unforced moments of getting-to-know-you (nonsexual) connection between Cox and Deutscher. Unfortunately, Sarah isn’t a proactive enough character, and the material as a whole just isn’t sketched out deeply enough to get its hooks in an audience. But the solid if unspectacular technical credits and Charge Over You’s narrative reach for something a bit beyond the norm make this a modest and entirely forgivable failure — the sort of calling card first feature film of which its makers need not be overly embarrassed.
Written by: Brent Simon