Nightstream: Jack Be Nimble (1993)

Director: Garth Maxwell

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Starring: Alexis Arquette, Sarah Smuts-Kennedy, Bruno Lawrence, Tony Barry, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Brenda Simmons

A scarcely available part of New Zealand cinema, what co-writer and director Garth Maxwell crafted is a 1993 take on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The story begins with babies Jack and Dora being abandoned by their parents, before separate adoptions leaves them growing up very differently. While Jack (Alexis Arquette) lives a harsh life with a sadistic family, Dora (Sarah Smuts-Kennedy) grows up with a loving family where she develops extra-sensory abilities. As the estranged twins try to reunite, Jack's evil stepsisters are in hot pursuit.

Across the lean runtime, Maxwell grippingly crafts a gothic fable which thrills while never forgetting about its characters. Jack's an explosive product of his abusive upbringing, acting out in violent ways while Arquette terrifically captures the characters PTSD. Dora's upbringing may have been healthier, yet the separation equally affected her as she misses her brother, while her abilities ensure she always knows the trauma her sibling is enduring.

Key to this film is the core relationship, as it's touching to see these siblings constantly looking out for each-other. Their joy at reuniting opens up painful truths and memories relating to their past abandonment, particularly upon visiting their birth parents. This emotional core is never forgotten, and wonderfully grounds the more fantastical elements.

Leaning into the fable inspirations, the adoptive sisters become an imposing force on their mission despite seeming like a forcible insertion. As the film seemingly indicates Jack is becoming the very monster which caused his misery, it's unfortunate this interesting turn is overshadowed for something more conventional. There's also the questionable inclusion of Teddy (Bruno Lawrence), Dora's love-interest who looks old-enough to be her father while creepily exchanging help for sex, and the way characters seemingly gloss over key deaths. Despite those issues, this remains an interesting cult-classic which can finally be enjoyed more widely thanks to this restoration.

Jack Be Nimble played at Nightstream