As I was watching The Red Dress, I found myself thinking that it had to be one of the most deliberately paced Lifetime film that I had ever seen. It moved slowly, taking its time to tell its story and, as far as I could tell, attempting to build up a certain atmosphere of existential doom. (In many ways, it reminded me of the trailer for Angelina Jolie’s By The Sea.) It really wasn’t paced right for TV but that’s probably because it really wasn’t made for TV.
From the occasionally blanked out lines of dialogue to a blurred hint of sideboob, it was obvious that The Red Dress was a theatrical film that somehow ended up making its American premiere on the Lifetime Movie Network. What would have worked just fine when watched in one uninterrupted 90 minute viewing worked less well when stretched out to two hours and frequently interrupted by commercials for Liberty Mutual Insurance. The film, itself, frequently plays with time and makes heavy use of flashbacks. It’s not necessarily a complicated story but it’s still one that requires a bit of concentration. It’s not always easy to concentrate when you have to deal with a commercial about an insane person who named her car Brad.
As for the story that the movie tells, Patricia (Rachel Skarsten) and Rainer (Callum Blue) are young, rich, married, and maybe in love. Of course, Patricia did have an affair with Rainer’s business partner, James (Sean Maguire). And, after Patricia announced that she was pregnant, Rainer did start to feel like “an appendage.” As for the baby, it died in a mysterious fire that may or may not have been arson.
With Patricia in a deep depression, Rainer suggests that they move to a beachfront house in Malta. It’s here that Rainer can spend all of his time floating in the pool and Patricia can deal with the constant nightmares that make it impossible for her to sleep. At times, being in Malta seems to bring the spark back to their marriage. But then there are other times when Patricia suspects that Rainer is keeping a secret from her.
And then there’s the mysterious girl who Patricia keeps seeing. The girl seems to always be heading towards a castle that lies in the distance, lit up with a crimson glow that makes it seem like it belongs in a Jean Rollin film or maybe Inception‘s Limbo. Patricia suspects that the girl may have been kidnapped by the mysterious local hunter, Angelo (John Rhys-Davies). Rainer, however, seems to believe that the solution to everything is for Patricia to take more pills.
The Red Dress doesn’t really work as a film, largely because Rainer and Patricia are such unlikable characters that you really don’t care what happens to them. Far too often, they put the idle into idle rich. As well, the film’s final twist is not as much of a surprise as the film seems to think it is. You’ll see it coming. That said, I did like the look of a film. Malta is a great location and the film takes advantage of that fact.
As for the film’s title, it refers to a dress that Patricia wears in a few of the flashbacks. And you know what? It is a really nice dress.