The Iris Effect (2005)

Rating: C+

Dir: Nikolai Lebedev
Star: Anne Archer, Gregory Hlady, Kip Pardue, Mia Kirshner

Ten years after her painter son, Tom, vanishes, Sarah Hathaway (Archer) still clings to her belief that he’ll be found alive, while everyone else has given up hope. Her faith seems justified when she finds a Russian art-catalog, containing work she recognises as Tom’s – only credited to “Paul Bergamo”. She heads to St. Petersburg to locate the painter (Pardue), only to find that he denies all knowledge of her son. So is Sarah simply clinging to a lost hope, which is driving her over the edge of sanity, or is there something else going on? Finding the answer requires her to unravel an ever-deeper mystery that involves an art gallery, local police, a friendly doctor (Hlady) and a street kid who seems to know more about what’s going on than anyone else.

Firstly, the sleeve designer should be taken out and shot. As the Russian poster shows, “iris” is the flower, not the body part – it’s the element of Tom’s paintings which alerts Sarah to the catalog. That aside, this at least attempts to be intelligent. It doesn’t quite get there, with an ending which comes off a little false. But despite that, and some other false steps, it doesn’t fail entirely. St. Petersburg is a nice location, and Archer gives a good performance as the mother who won’t let go – she’s on screen almost every scene, so it’s important she has a strong presence, especially playing a “stranger in a strange land”. However, it still feels as if something was lost here, perhaps garbled in the translation from Russian, and the ending should have more impact than the film delivers.