Nocebo  (12A) | Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Lorcan Finnegan, Ireland/UK/Philippines/US, 2022, 97 mins

Cast:  Eva Greene, Chai Fornacier, Mark Strong

Review by Carol Allen

This is an original and effective horror thriller which is also an unusual collaboration between Ireland and the Philippines, where part of the story is set.

Eva Greene plays Christine, a successful fashion designer of children’s clothes.  She has the perfect lifestyle – beautiful house, car and clothes, loving husband Felix (Mark Strong) and a cute daughter Bobs (Billie Gadsdon).   Everything changes for her though when in the middle of the launch of her latest collection, she receives a phone call with some devastating news.  Immediately afterwards her space is invaded by a flea ridden dog and its ticks, which then  burrow into her flesh. 

When we see her next Christine is a different woman, suffering from a mysterious illness which the doctors cannot identify.   Then out of the blue, Filipino nanny/carer Diana (Chai Fornacier) appears, claiming to be responding to the family’s advertisement – even though the couple don’t remember placing one.   She is though a blessing, forming a good relationship with Bobs and treating Christine with traditional Filipino recipes that she says her mother taught her.  

But when the treatments start to make Christine’s illness worse and Diana’s relationship with Bobs becomes unhealthily close, Felix gets suspicious.  Quite rightly.  

Diana has inherited something a lot more ominous than alternative medicine recipes from her mother – and the reason for her appearance in the family’s life lies in a tragedy in the Philippines, in which Christine played a part and for which Diana wants payback.

This is very much the two women’s film.   Fornacier as Diana is at times delightfully innocent and helpful in demeanor, at other times moving and also very scary, while Greene is very convincing as the once confident career woman being gradually destroyed.   The revelation of Diana’s story is gripping and disturbing, involving as it does both human cupidity and the supernatural, while the tragedy which has set her on her journey of revenge is convincingly and quite terrifyingly staged.