Melissa’s Review: ‘I Believe In Unicorns’ beautifully/terrifyingly captures the innocent foolish decisions of a teenage girl’s first love


Davina (Natalia Dyer) is teetering between childhood and adulthood as she meets and falls in love with an older boy (Peter Vack). The two run away together, but her imaginative and free-spirited nature only goes so far before reality catches up.

I_Believe_in_Unicorns_publicity_still02This incredibly intimate story is writer/director Leah Meyerhoff’s first feature film and revolves around a “fictionalized version of her younger self.” Davina takes care of her mother (the director’s mother, Toni Meyeroff), and is artistic and imaginative. She has a best friend, Cassidy (Julia Garner, from the Tribeca film Grandma), but when she sees Sterling, she’s smitten.

I_Believe_in_Unicorns_publicity_still06As we follow Davina, Meyeroff uses stop motion to animate her lucid dream sequences. These sequences serve as a window into her mind as she can’t quite process what’s happening in real life. The real world backdrop, often without any score, allows you to take in the what’s happening without a filter.

I_Believe_in_Unicorns_publicity_still05Davina tries out Sterling’s world and gets lost. She doesn’t know how she’s supposed to be treated, or to act, and neither does he. The two of them learn as they go, discovering what makes each feel good as well as what really upsets them. Their short romance goes from bliss to utter disaster back to bliss in the blink of an eye. This is what someone means when they describe a relationship as, “we were too young.”

I_Believe_in_Unicorns_publicity_still09Good and bad, every experience shapes us. Davina may have lost her innocence, but she’s gained knowledge that she’ll carry with her forever. I look forward to Meyeroff’s next feature, as she has a very powerful voice.

Starts today at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Avenue at West 3rd Street, New York, NY. Available on Vimeo June 1st.

This exploration of the emotional, complex landscape of troubled young love centers on Davina, an imaginative, strong-willed teenage girl with a beautifully twisted fantasy life. Having grown up quickly as the sole caretaker of her disabled mother, she looks for escape in a new relationship with an older boy. She’s quickly swept up into a whirlwind of romance and adventure, but Davina’s enchantment is shaken when her boyfriend’s volatile nature emerges. Official selection: SXSW Film Festival

Friday, May 29 at 8:20: The Making of I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS – Leah Meyerhoff (writer/director) and the UNICORNS cast and crew

Saturday, May 30 at 3:10: Editing for Performance – Michael Taylor (editor, UNICORNS), Natalia Dyer (actress, UNICORNS), Peter Vack (actor, UNICORNS)

Saturday, May 30 at 8:20: Coming of Age – Mary Harron (director, American Psycho), Eliza Hittman (director, It Felt Like Love), Caryn Waechter (director,The Sisterhood of Night), Natalia Dyer (actress, UNICORNS)

Sunday, May 31 at 3:10: DIY Techniques – Ryan Koo (founder, No Film School), Aly Migliori (post, UNICORNS), Joe Stillwater (sound, UNICORNS)

Sunday, May 31 at 8:20: Independent Visions – Adam Leon (director, Gimme the Loot), Deborah Kampmeier (director, Hounddog), Laurie Collyer (director,Sherrybaby), Rob Meyer (director, A Birder’s Guide to Everything)

Monday, June 1 at 8:20: Stop Motion Animation – Signe Baumane (director, Rocks in my Pockets), Leah Shore (director, Hallway), David Bell (director, The Sacred Engine)

Tuesday, June 2 at 8:20: Personal Narratives – Jonathan Caouette (director, Tarnation), Reed Morano (director, Meadowland), Ryan Piers Williams (director,X/Y), Kim Levin (director, Runoff), Petra Costa (director, Elena)

Wednesday, June 3 at 8:20: The Casting Process – Nicole Kassell (director, The Woodsman), Laurie Weltz (director, Scout), Sara Colangelo (director, Little Accidents), Anja Marquardt (director, She’s Lost Control)

Thursday, June 4 at 8:20: The Female Gaze – Bette Gordon (director, Variety), Alison Bagnall (director,Funny Bunny), Enid Zentelis (director, Evergreen), Gail Segal (professor, NYU), Terry Lawler (executive, NYWIFT)

I Believe in Unicorns – Trailer from Gravitas Ventures on Vimeo.

About Melissa Hanson

Melissa Hanson aka Dial M For Melissa - Managing Editor / Podcast Producer - Growing up, Melissa’s favorite destination was always the video store and would agonize over whether to watch something new or to rewatch a favorite. Things have not changed. Follow on Twitter @DialMForMelissa

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