It’s a rare film these days that one finds oneself wishing a film was longer than it actually is, but Joel David Moore‘s ambiguous psychodrama Some Other Woman is one of those occurrences. A trouble in paradise mystery spliced with creeping, Lynchian existential dread, it leaves so many questions unanswered that you get more of a sense of the filmmaking team not really sticking the landing rather than the script deliberately having controlled opacity to its denouement. There is however, more than enough interesting things to make up for its narrative vagaries.

Eve (Amanda Crew) has struggled to acclimatise to life in the Cayman Islands to which she moved to be with her husband Peter (Tom Felton). What was supposed to be a few months has become a few years and she misses her old life in Rhode Island. Beyond this, she’s struggled to conceive, and suffers a miscarriage early in pregnancy. Sitting on the beach one evening she witnesses a woman (Ashley Greene) swimming to shore. Feeling watched, she begins to realise subtle differences around the home, then larger ones. Before long the other woman has taken her place. Is this really happening, or is it a psychological breakdown caused by trauma?

Moore and writers Yuri Baranovsky, Angela Gulner, and Josh Long have taken pains to try something really different with the scenario of a woman feeling threatened by something malignant in her own home. Instead, Some Other Woman aims to say something broader about the way women are pitted against each other – even the title hints at this. And with Eve’s concerns brushed off by her loathsome husband (Felton playing entirely to type here), there’s a real Repulsion-like sense of the walls closing in. But the film is less interested in the relationship between Eve and Peter than it is the mysterious antagonism between Eva and the woman who seems to be absorbing her life, who we find out is called Renata. What we ultimately get is a Sliding Doors scenario, or a light genre spin on Persona. Amanda Crew is deeply impressive as Eve, and Greene does a fine job of eliciting empathy for her own character, given how much our sympathies have been tuned to Eve early on.

Suitably for an island setting, water – and it’s ever-shifting fluidity – has significant symbolic resonance. Emerging from water is the repeated visual motif, perhaps signalling rebirth or the point of convergence of multiple realities. Both Eve and Renata are introduced in this fashion as they leave the sea. But this isn’t an Ursula Andress (or Halle Berry, or even Daniel Craig) entrance, more like that of Gérôme’s Truth Coming Out of Her Well. It seems more calculated and vengeful, but again their purpose is unclear.

While there’s a certain level of frustration caused by the dangling strands Some Other Woman leaves behind, the impulse is to watch again to see if those frayed ends can be tied together. There is more than enough quality in the narrative and the performances to overcome the shortcomings of its outcome, and a genuine sense of filmmaking ambition and thematic reach goes a long way to mitigating a degree of messiness in the end product.

Available on digital platforms from Mon 12 Feb 2024