For director Sylvia Caminer’s debut feature film Follow Her, we are immersed in the dangerous side of online culture as a streamer gets more than she bargains for when she decides to take on a potential job, unaware of just what her potential employer’s intentions towards her truly are. As someone who watches hundreds of movies every year, I can’t even begin to tell you how much my mood improves when something comes along and manages to surprise me, and Follow Her did just that, over and over (and over) again. The script, written by the film’s star Dani Barker, is completely engrossing and thought-provoking but also leaves you with some food for thought while you’re watching it (more on that later), but it also finds some ingenious ways of subverting expectations and turning some tried and true tropes on their head as well, making this Follow Her a true standout in the realm of modern psychological thrillers.
In Follow Her, we’re introduced to a streamer named Jess (Barker) whose content is centered around posting her interactions with unsavory dudes she meets up with when she responds to their weird online ads for those who follow her channel. During one of her streams, Jess’ tech fails, and she unknowingly reveals the identity of a guy who happens to have a tickling fetish to everyone watching. Jess ends up feeling conflicted about whether or not to leave the video on her channel despite the glitch, considering she feels like her content serves as a warning to others. But when she responds for a writing job, Jess gets into a situation she cannot possibly be prepared for when her collaborator - who, in a hilarious turn, also happens to be named Tom Brady (Luke Cook) - takes things too far and the streamer soon begins to wonder whether or not she’s going to survive this encounter, or if Tom is just playing an elaborate game meant to screw with her head.
And that’s the beauty of Follow Her, because, for a huge chunk of the film’s 95-minute running time, I had no idea just what exactly Caminer was up to until all is revealed during the extremely provocative finale once all the storytelling cards are laid out on the proverbial table. There’s such an intriguing back and forth that occurs between the characters of Jess and Tom that it was often difficult to figure out just where exactly Follow Her was heading at times, which is something I genuinely appreciated. I also think that the was Jess and her actions are explored in this script by Barker, who makes her character likable and someone who immediately captures your attention, but at the same time, the things that Jess is doing as her way of building a social media brand for herself may be something she sees as helpful to others, but they really are exploitative in nature, especially considering the men who are featured in her video content don’t give her their consent to record their interactions.
So while Jess is very much the protagonist in Follow Her, she’s not exactly the hero of this story, and I love just how Barker’s script is able to deal with these complexities in a very nuanced way here that doesn’t feel like it’s trying to manipulate the audience into feeling one way or another. The truth is that in these kinds of circumstances, there are rarely any “good guys,” and I appreciate that Follow Her doesn’t pull any punches in that regard.
Barker’s performance in the movie is exceptional, as there are a lot of layers to Jess that we get to see pulled back during several key scenes in Follow Her. Luke Cook is pretty damn great in this as well, and he shares an incredible amount of chemistry with Barker, and it’s just really fun to watch these two actors go back and forth once things take a dark turn in this story. I also think the way that Caminer seamlessly integrates atypical footage (hidden cameras, computer cameras, camera glasses, etc.) in Follow Her with the more traditional camera work from cinematographer Luke Geissbuhler (who does gorgeous work) helps make the viewing experience even more immersive.
While I’m not someone who really is into the whole online streaming culture thing (I’m old and I don’t really have time to watch stuff for fun), I still found Follow Her to be an extremely striking psychological thriller that was thoroughly captivating and timely to boot. There’s something to be said for storytelling innovation and this collaboration between Caminer and Barker proves that there are still a few stones left unturned out there just waiting to be explored.
Movie Score: 4/5