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SXSW Review: "Make Up" is a journey in self discovery

Make Up

Source: Protagonist Pictures (Image credit: Protagonist Pictures)

While this year's SXSW was canceled due to COVID-19, we still had a chance to screen some of the films for the festival. Keep your eyes peeled for more news on these titles in the future!

Jealousy can be a hell of a drug. Ruth (Molly Windsor), a sweet and unassuming girl who's recently moved to a new village to be with her boyfriend of three years, quickly learns this in the opening of Make Up . When I say the opening, I mean it. At a tight eighty-five minutes, the film has no time for unnecessary exposition. That is to say, it's the perfect length.

Her one comfort throughout all of this is her new friend, Jade.

Upon her arrival, Ruth finds a strand of red hair and a smear of red lipstick on her boyfriend's collar. Rather than confront him about it, she angrily strips down their trailer and washes everything she can find. Though she thinks she made quick work of the problem, she finds the scarlet shade haunting her throughout the film's duration.

Her one comfort throughout all of this is her new friend, Jade (Stefanie Martini). Though Jade is Ruth's antithesis in nearly every way, the newcomer quickly finds a kinship with her. Jade shows her things like makeup and manicures and is kind to her while others in the village — particularly her boyfriends' mates — are less so. The ladies bond over their differences and in their solitude since the village is quite remote.

Despite her new friend, Ruth remains vexed by the woman with the red hair. That discomfort deepens when she discovers that no one in the village looks like that, and there has never been. Even worse, she's started seeing the scarlet haired vixen darting around corners and hiding in fumigated trailers. Things get spooky once or twice in Make Up !

Even worse, she's started seeing the scarlet haired vixen darting around corners and hiding in fumigated trailers.

As things progress, Ruth realizes that perhaps jealousy isn't the only thing she's being plagued by. This realization results in her quickly ostracizing everyone she once held close. At one point she spirals so much, she ends up walking into the ocean in the middle of winter with all of her clothes on. I'd love to give you more detail on the "why" there, but that's a detail better left unspoiled.

Before things come to a close, we find ourselves wondering if Ruth will ever be able to find peace with her boyfriend, Jade, or herself. Maybe she won't have time! Girl did walk into the ocean in the middle of winter, after all. Pneumonia is real!

Claire Oakley's Make Up is a sexy look at how haunting self-discovery, especially if you're convinced that you're well past that point in your life, can be. The film's short runtime ensures that no minute is wasted, and there's a palpable kind of chemistry between the leads. A story of personal discovery sneaks in a couple of fun thriller-like moments without ever diverting too far from its own purpose. It also acts as a fun little reminder to never uproot your life for a significant other. If you do that, you might be haunted by some scarlet-haired specter, and you're gonna have a bad time!