The loss of a loved one can be an earth-shattering experience, it can shift your reality and make people question the very notion of existence. Why are we here? What comes after? Could we have done anything differently? David Gleeson’s third feature Don’t Go attempts to tackle these questions in a slow-burning and often overstated family mystery.
Grieving from the loss of their young daughter, Ben Slater (Stephen Dorff) and his wife Hazel (Melissa George) are packing up and moving to Galway Bay to re-open a coastal hotel that was once in Hazel’s family. Dissatisfied with his career as a published author, Ben decides to take up teaching at a local school to float the couple’s income. Another frequent visitor to the house is Hazel’s best friend Serena, whose presence seems to cause an extra layer of tension in an already desperate household.
A fixer-upper hotel, a struggling writer and a death in the family all make for a nice haunted house tale don’t you think? Maybe so, but Don’t Go does a good job of deflecting any leading traits of that premise at every turn, even when things do become decidedly strange. When carrying boxes into the hotel, Ben drops a stack of magazines, the titles of which arrange in a pile that reads ‘Seas the Day’, shrugging it off as a strange occurrence Ben ignores it. Later on, after a night of drinking, he finds himself reliving a memory of his late daughter and wife on a sunny beach day building sandcastles. He awakes abruptly realising he’s been passed out on the beach next to the hotel. Ben is frequented by the phrase ‘Seas the day’ in varying forms over the coming days and also continuously finds himself re-living that same moment with his daughter over and over again. A beyond-the-grave message from his daughter perhaps? A haunting? A warning? The film is surprisingly quick to purposefully mislead its audience as Ben quite quickly unravels in his heightened state of grieving.
Dorff does an adequate job as the mourning father, riddled with guilt over an unspoken truth that leads him to believe supernatural forces might be contacting him. However, the film does take a very different turn that is highly surprising. Unfortunately, the thematic reveal and conclusion all unravel so quickly and with such grandiose that the finale feels rushed when there are such interesting topics in discussion.
For a film tackling such topics as grief, reality and how our decisions affect a bigger picture, Don’t Go presents itself as fairly understated. With mediocre performances and style, but a whole other screenplay’s worth of content to grapple with unfolded in its visually engaging final act, Gleeson’s film is a sea of ideas with only a lifejacket keeping it afloat.
Don’t Go is released on VOD on 26th October
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of Screen Queens. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her lifesource is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends way too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here