When I Consume You is a Monstrous Manifestation of Trauma

There is an evil in Daphne’s (Libby Ewing) and Wilson’s (Evan Dumouchel) lives. They’re siblings who grew up in the midst of tragedy and have come to rely on one another to survive, but neither of them is particularly thriving. Daphne has conquered her drug addiction, but it’s still the only way people view her. She’s denied the opportunity to adopt a child because of her past, despite the strides she’s made to change her life. Wilson works as a janitor and suffers from panic attacks and PTSD. When the evil from their childhood returns in the form of a stalker, the siblings work together to seek revenge.

Like writer/director Perry Blackshear’s previous films, When I Consume You is gritty, guerrilla filmmaking at its finest. The actors served as crew members for the film, and the collaborative experience is evident in the care that exudes from the screen. The film is clearly a labor of love, and it exists to prove that generational trauma can be unlearned and that people are deserving of second chances. Change is not easy. An enormous amount of strength is required to maintain and support a decision that must be made again and again and again.

Wilson and Daphne laying in the grass

Daphne and Wilson are fighting a tangible demon in this film, but the battle is internal. This demon is a manifestation of their childhood traumas, addiction, and abuse. It’s not just a monster that goes bump in the night. This demon is part of them, part of the collective trauma that they’re working every single day to unlearn. It makes the fight they’re training for that much more personal and complicated. In a sense, it’s easy to face down monsters that go bump in the night, but it’s much more difficult to take an honest look inward and face yourself.

The pace of When I Consume You is a little too lackadaisical for its own good. The beginning of the film does an excellent job of setting up the sibling dynamic, the threat, and what’s at stake for Wilson and Daphne, but it loses its way toward the middle. The tension that is developed gives way to a too-long training montage as Wilson prepares to face the evil. It’s one thing to have his character undergo the steps necessary to go toe-to-toe with his trauma. Unfortunately, this training montage would look more at home in Rocky or Million Dollar Baby than in a quiet indie film about family trauma.

The film works best when it’s fully leaning into the manifestation of addiction and pain as a stalker that will not leave Daphne and Wilson alone. It’s a perfect metaphor for the way addiction, even when sober, is omnipresent. Some days, the desire to relapse is far away, but on other days it’s suffocating. The same goes for depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health struggles. When I Consume You doesn’t need the elongated training montage tangent, secret coded messages in books, or hand-holding flashbacks to get the themes across. The more interesting story is about Wilson’s and Daphne’s personal growth.

Wilson and Daphne sit on the fire escape

“While you’re still alive, be kind,” Daphne recites to Wilson toward the end of the film. It’s a mantra from her favorite Buddhist text that she’s relied on for years. It’s a reminder that it’s impossible to know the demons others are facing and that leading with kindness is always the best option. When I Consume You also makes the case for redemption and how society often doesn’t allow people to change for the better. 

Perhaps When I Consume You would work better as a short film. There’s no denying that Blackshear has an interesting voice and way of looking at things, but the middle of the movie feels too much like empty filler to make the case for a feature-length film. Ewing and Dumouchel are outstanding leads who effortlessly show the special love that exists between siblings and the strength it takes to stare down your demons for a shot at a better life.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

News Editor for Film Obsessive. Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Carey Mulligan her Oscar.

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