Addiction is a bear – which is probably an understatement. A monster is more like it. And Joshua Nelson’s The Things We Cannot Change isn’t kidding. The anonymous in question are a series of vampires, and they have an uncontrollable urge to feed. Powerless, these devilish immortals literally suck the life out of everyone around them, and the 96 minute feature really brings into focus what real addicts are up against.
The film begins with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald. “First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, and then the drink takes you” and it appears we’re simply in for a movie about the struggles of alcoholism. The same goes as Kristen (Jenn Nobile) attends group, and to the soft empathetic piano score, she recounts her inability to make the necessary changes.
The lies that are the foundation of her marriage to Matt (Jay Barson) wear us down too, and in flashback, it seems drink has led her to being unfaithful. But the next thing we know, Kristen’s eyes roll over white, her vampire incisors fill the screen, and she is gnawing on the neck of the would-be adulterer. In this, obviously, we understand that the 12 steps are going to need a little rewriting.
Even so, in return to the present, the group therapy leader (Richard Rampolla) doesn’t really stray from doctrine. Rampolla leads the group by simply superimposing the procedure over yet another form of addition, and his pensive performance almost gets us to forget the drug of choice. Still, the sessions are shot with the sufferers shrouded in darkness, and the cinematographic choice of Austin Rappold and Michael Zayac tells us that recovery is probably a long shot.
Nonetheless, members are all in different places. Zoey (Jennifer Torres) is young aspiring vampire who’s yet to see a problem. Logan (Tony Murphy) and Sharon (Laurie Tieman) want to shield their young adopted son from the horrors, and Nico (Jeff Clark, Jr.) is so wracked with guilt he’s attempted suicide multiple times.
Alongside, the film tries not to take itself too seriously, and most of the comic relief comes on the heels of Lucy (Katie Raulerson) and Denise (Ashley Laessig). A mix of frivolous sexuality and endearing murder, the actresses bring some light to the darkness. The silliness probably isn’t necessary, though, and can feel out of place, but the main storyline does not suffer.
Either way, these are vampires, and that comes with an unchallenged job description. They inherently feed on human blood – and asking themselves to stop is like telling a lion to go vegan. So the therapist has his hands full and tries to referee the competing narratives.
In between, the gore must come due. The chomps on severed limbs will be old hat for some, while all the blood dripping images will just be horrid for others. That said, we do need to be reminded. Without a doubt, the therapeutic discourse is so effective that denial is easy and the viewer must be reset to what is actually going on.
Unfortunately for the therapist, a bogey emerges. Veronica (Laura Lemire) is a full on lioness and sees no inconsistency in sinking in her incisors whenever the urge arises. A downward spiraling rhythmic score always following her agenda, Lemire doles the evil by the mouthful, and she’s also recruiting. Thus, the influence of the two main players sways back and forth and the vampires are caught in between.
In this regard, most of the acting comes up a little short. We can see the conflict in the delivery but not powerfully enough to really feel it. But the acting is still good enough to carry us away.
At a point, though, the roster of players and their struggles tends to get redundant. However, there’s a final plot twist, and the change up actually brings sense to the intricacies of each story. So no matter the addiction, this film highlights the life and death struggle that people have to sink their teeth into – if they are to survive.