THE FOREST OF THE LOST SOULS ** Portugal / Spain / United Arab Emirates / Russia 2017 Dir: Jose Pedro Lopes. 71 mins

“Time destroys everything” and “Sadness will last forever” are the competing mantras of this beautifully shot (in black and white) but uninvolving mood piece set in a fictional woodland suicide spot between Portugal and Spain.
The first half captures the unlikely bond between a middle class, middle aged man (Jorge Mota), mourning the suicide of his own daughter, and a downbeat young woman (Daniela Love) who quotes Nick Hornby and is a regular visitor to the forest, complete with multiple memorised suicide stats and techniques for suicide note-writing. The duo talk about their individual suicide plans before the story transitions into a violent home invasion of one key character fulfilling their ultimate mission. “Who commits suicide with a knife? Are you fucking Japanese?” Although not without gallows humour and well-acted by the two disparate leads, this ponderous feature has the feel of an unusually handsome student film, with nods to various other filmmakers (Michael Haneke, Gaspar Noe, Pascal Laugier). It tips over unsuccessfully to more conventional genre territory and is frequently sunk by genuinely awful dialogue (“Give a chance for that thing called life”).

Review by Steven West

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