After creating justifiable buzz with 2014’s Call Girl and more recently dialling up the grotesquerie with the unsettling micro-short Grammy, Jill Gevargizian takes another sharp creative turn with The Stylist. Her most accomplished work to date, it’s a gripping combination of carefully-honed atmosphere, jarringly visceral visuals and assured performances that shocks to the core while also seeming to have perceptive things to say about modern beauty standards and an enduring expectation of perfection.
The film opens on a gentle score and an elegant main title, setting a sombre, mellow tone that is all the more effective for the ruthlessness with which Gevargizian goes on to shatter it. Set in a hair salon manned by Claire (Najarra Townsend, last seen fearlessly embracing the madness in Eric England’s body-horror stunner Contracted, and on fine form once again here), she’s running the show herself as she waits for her last appointment of the day. The last customer is Mandy (Jennifer Plas), who’s in need of some emergency hair-care ahead of a major work party.
There are two main scenes in The Stylist, and both heavily involve mirrors and various levels of self-examination. The emphasis throughout is on a need to “look perfect”, and it’s a motif that is followed through to a devastating, bloody and deeply resonant conclusion. While it’s arguable that once the film’s outcome becomes inevitable, the final scene’s slowness to hit its beats dulls its dramatic impact, but it’s also a constituent part of a wider commitment to an atmosphere of dread that builds, hits its crescendo and leaves you with plenty of room for reflection. Assured stuff from a filmmaker that seems to be going from strength to strength.
Watch Jill Gevargizian’s previous work, as well as the trailer for The Stylist, here.