Davina is an imaginative teenage girl living with her disabled mother. Restless and looking for adventure, Davina catches the eye of a skater-boy, Sterling. Sterling is tough, badass, and feels Davina’s restlessness. Their budding relationship is full of laughter, excitement and new beginnings. However, warning signs flash when Sterling avoids intimate questions and starts showing physically rough tendencies in their relationship. On one occasion, when Davina asks him what he dreamt about the previous night, Sterling responds, “I don’t dream...I live my dreams.” This in itself is worrisome and shows potential issues, as Davina is at the other extreme and resorts to fantastical daydreams as a form of escapism.
The fantastical scenes played out in Davina’s imagination are spotted with stop-motion clips that help distinguish fantasy from reality. Davina envisions herself as a strong, independent, confident woman capable of taking care of herself; she desperately wants to be someone capable of standing up for herself. Throughout her struggles, I wondered if her strength would be able to save her from drowning in an abusive relationship.
I Believe in Unicorns is a powerful film dealing with intense issues from a perspective not usually explored; not many coming-of-age films tell the story of an abusive relationship from the eyes of a young girl. I was on edge for the majority of the movie, especially during a particularly intense scene that left me wide-eyed and frightened for Davina’s future. If you read the title of this film and are expecting a quirky, light-hearted indie movie, don’t be fooled. I Believe in Unicorns is a story that will stay with you, and it’s one that I definitely recommend.
I Believe in Unicorns screens at 8:30PM on Sunday, April 27th at the Somerville Theater. More information and tickets can be found at the IFF Boston Website.