Lois Stevenson’s debut film is attractively shot and drenched in psychedelic colour, telling an initially engaging but ultimately frustrating story of a man’s journey towards finding comfort in who he is.

Stevenson’s biggest triumph is her command over the film’s aesthetics, which are impressive throughout but especially in the frequent heightened, dreamlike sequences that serve as the method through which the main character’s subconscious thoughts and feelings are explored. These sequences are creative and engaging, working in tandem with a striking score by Johnny Jewel to evoke that Nicolas Winding Refn-esque stylised sense.

The film falters a little because its script (written by co-stars Jamie Bacon and Charles Streeter) lacks depth, frustratingly suggesting possibilities without ever delivering upon them. It tells the story of Daniel (Jamie Bacon), a man working at an office job in London who is struggling to understand and accept who he really is amidst the backdrop of personal trauma. New to a job in London, he ends up going out with his new colleagues, eventually reaching a nightclub called ‘Lost & Found’ where he finally starts to acknowledge his inner identity, with some difficulty.

It’s a touching and worthwhile story that is very well performed. Bacon’s portrayal of Daniel is subtle, his facial expressions and nervous half-glances tell more about him than the very few lines he has, which by and large are delivered nervously and without conviction, the sign of a character in turmoil. Also good is Charles Streeter as a drag queen named Jennifer who Daniel meets at the club, and who helps him come to terms with himself.

The problem is that it never feels fully formed. The film becomes more about the mood it evokes and the visual style it so artfully expresses than the content itself, which remains distant, almost unfussed by depth in its pursuit of an artful lack of transparency. The true power of the story is mitigated by this feeling as the film struggles between its impressive atmosphere and effective storytelling, never quite managing to meld the two together.

Instead, it manages to be impressive without being fully impactful. It definitely shows promise and Stevenson will no doubt produce more evocative, interesting work in the future, but despite being worthy of commendation and acknowledgment for its stylistic achievements, it isn’t quite as successful as it could have been.

Dir: Lois Stevenson

Scr: Jamie Bacon, Charles Streeter

Cast: Jamie Bacon, Beatrice May, Charles Streeter, Jack Helsby, John Sackville

Prd: Jamie Bacon, Neylin Mutlu, Charles Streeter

DoP: Ajay Arora, Carlos Torres

Music: Johnny Jewel

Country: UK

Year: 2019

Runtime: 65 mins

Into the Mirror is in cinemas and digital now.