A Dark Disintegration of Self: Discover Mireille Enos and Camille Thoman's 'Never Here.'
It’s interesting to see how many meaty scripts featuring female protagonists are coming to fruition right now after nearly a decade of labour. The Favourite with Olivia Colman is one; Never Here, by Camille Thoman and starring Mireille Enos and Sam Shepard, another.
Camille first wrote the script in 2010 for an idea she had about a woman whose identity is slowly chipped away, filming it through the lens of the suspense genre. Never Here follows the journey of installation artist Miranda Fall, who documents the lives of strangers to create her art. One night her secret lover witnesses a violent act from Miranda’s apartment window. To protect his identity, Miranda poses as the primary witness, making statements to the police about a crime she did not see. She begins to create a new piece of work, based on these circumstances. This act sends Miranda into a maze of doubt and fear,
“The reason it took so long to get made is because it had a female protagonist and a female director attached.”
However, it’s taken until 2018 for the film to be released, even though Camille says, “I never gave up on the film, not for one single second.” Having written it with The Killing’s Mireille Enos in mind (they had collaborated before on a short film in 2006 -Falling Objects), the director still wonders whether that even with the bankable names that became attached to the project, “the reason it took so long to get made is because it had a female protagonist and a female director attached. Like many films, it came together and fell apart many times. I had the support of Mireille and the most amazing producers in the world, but I’m sure that it wouldn’t have been as hard without the issue of gender.”
“We sent it to him not thinking that we had a shot in hell of him saying ‘yes’ and the fact he accepted the part is miraculous. “
In the meantime she made a documentary set in the UK, The Longest Game, and happily Never Here the film now has a theatrical as well as VOD release, and Mireille Enos inhabits the role originally written for her – she’s in every scene. Never Here is her film – but it should also be noted for Sam Shephard’s last ever credited performance, as lover Paul Stark, before he died in 2017.
“I wanted someone with innate elegance and intelligence and sophistication and I’m a lifelong fan. We sent it to him not thinking that we had a shot in hell of him saying ‘yes’ and the fact he accepted the part is miraculous. What does it mean for me that Never Here was his last film? It’s tragic. Its humbling. I’m so grateful that I got to spend the time with him I did. I’m so grateful that he was drawn to it.
“When Sam was on set it made everyone bring a bit more to the project. He was a very classy guy and the character of Paul is written as someone much older than her. It’s deliberately murky and slightly off, because he’s also a father figure to Miranda and her agent so it’s a deliberately murky situation. He shouldn’t be at her window witnessing the crime.”
“I wanted to tell the story of what happens to someone when the sign-posts of their identity are removed brick by brick. It’s a dark experience for Miranda to go through and it’s a disconcerting one.”
Why would Camille Thoman think of the topic of the film? “I am very interested in the nature of things appearing to be more fixed then they are, “she replies. We think of ourselves as fixed, and that gives us comfort, but I also think it leads to destruction. A very fixed point of view about who we are can get us into trouble – it’s not that comfortable to accept we are energy in a body in motion.
“Never Here poses the question: are all fixed concepts of identity “constructs” and fictions? The protagonist's sense of self is assaulted from every angle. The construct of her identity is chipped away at little by little— this happens visually, situationally, emotionally, and is often forged by the camera as well as the plot. I wanted to tell the story of what happens to someone when the sign-posts of their identity are removed brick by brick. It’s a dark experience for Miranda to go through and it’s a disconcerting one.”
Now based in Los Angeles, Camille spent a decade of her life in the UK, with solo performance work running at The Old Vic in London, and she studied at Bristol University. However, her experience there had a profound and direct influence on her work, as she relates that “I experienced what would now be diagnosed as PTSD and depersonalisation disorder. This experience of not feeling as if I inhabited the world (or my own body), having a world and a body whose contours are slithery and treacherous, is an experience that is very much explored in Never Here. It’s basically a person’s divorce from their own identity.”
When you see Never Here, you might think of Hitchcock. The director admits that “the UK formed all my work, not just because I experienced that trauma here, but culturally it formed me. It’s in the movies I watch and the books I read, and that I feel I belong very much to the European school of film-making, I gravitate towards a European audience. But it’s also in the way I spell things and the expressions I use. When I land in London, every time I’ll feel relief because I think, ‘people get my jokes here.’
‘Never Here’ is released in cinemas and on VOD in the UK on September 21 2018