In the cinematic realm where storytelling prowess is essential, Ruined, directed by Tamara Bass and penned by Michelle Valentine, stumbles as it attempts to traverse the convoluted terrain of love, revenge, and suspense. Despite its promising premise, the film falls flat, leaving viewers with an unsatisfying aftertaste due to lackluster performances, uninspiring chemistry, and a failure to adequately delve into the characters’ motivations. The film takes audiences on a tumultuous journey through the lives of Landon and Olivia Richards, a couple whose marriage and individual dreams are entangled in a web of worldly aspirations, secrets, heartache, and the chilling intentions of a vengeful specter.
The crux of the film revolves around Liv and Landon Richards, portrayed by Annie Ilonzeh and Chris Warren, respectively. Landon embodies the quintessence of success as an accomplished OB-GYN, steering his own medical practice that especially caters to black women. Despite this, however, he desperately wants to leave behind a legacy by having a child who will further his lineage, leaving that to be his sole identity throughout the film. There is literally nothing else this man stands for or talks about, undoubtedly making him the least-liked character. Contrasting his fervor is Liv, a gifted interior designer whose career aspirations have been paused and put on the back burner due to her pursuit of motherhood. The narrative commences with a glimpse into the couple’s relationship, forged during their college days. On paper, their characters are meant to embody a decade-long marriage strained by the yearning for a child. This longing is a fragile thread that connects their dreams but also becomes the breeding ground for the seeds of despair. Unfortunately, the chemistry between the lead actors never quite clicks, leaving their interactions feeling mechanical and devoid of genuine emotion. Their dialogues, rather than evoking empathy, land with a thud, failing to resonate with the audience.
The film’s pivotal turn emerges with the introduction of Dr. Alexis Torres, played by Keri Hilson. A therapist draped in an enigmatic aura, Dr. Torres swiftly inserts herself into Olivia’s life as a potential beacon of hope. However, things are not as straightforward as they seem. Under the veneer of professionalism, a tangled past simmers—one that binds her to Landon in ways. The revelation threatens to be a tour de force where the scars of the past intertwine with the present, weaving a tapestry of deceit and vengeance that threatens to shatter Richards’ marriage. A character that was introduced in order to be the lynchpin of suspense and drama, Dr. Torres instead falters because of an insufficient backstory and character development. While the film hints at a past connection between Alexis and Landon and the motivations that fuel her vengeful intentions, it fails to provide a compelling exploration of her transformation into a vindictive force rather than leaving her to be just another ‘unhi ed woman.’ The audience is left in the dark, unable to grasp the depths of her unhinged psyche or empathize with her plight.
One of the most glaring pitfalls of Ruined lies in its inability to establish a connection between the viewers and the characters. The lack of character development and depth hampers any potential emotional investment in their fates. Liv and Landon’s struggles with infertility, which should evoke sympathy, fall flat due to their characters’ one-dimensional portrayals. As a result, the emotional turmoil they experience fails to resonate, leaving the audience emotionally detached from their problems and their eventual outcomes. Even in the scene where Landon is forced to go to a therapy session with Liv and Alexis, which forces them to trauma bond, there is just not enough spark in the way each of them reacts given the circumstances of the situation.
The film’s attempts at suspense are marred by predictability and cliches. While twists and turns are promised, you can almost always foresee the outcome a mile away, leaving little room for genuine surprise. The film’s pacing suffers, with scenes that should be tense and thrilling ending up sluggish and unengaging—especially the ones where Landon and Liv try to talk through their issues and Liv looks for her missing brother despite knowing the potential danger he could be in. The lack of a compelling narrative arc exacerbates the film’s shortcomings, making it challenging to invest in the characters’ journeys.
Tamara Bass’s direction, while ambitious, struggles to elevate the material beyond its limitations. The film’s visuals lack a distinctive flair, and its attempts to capture the complexity of emotions feel forced. The cinematography, rather than immersing the audience in the characters’ world, forces them to become passive observers, failing to evoke the desired emotional resonance. Michelle Valentine’s screenplay, though promising in its premise, falters in execution. The dialogue, meant to convey the characters’ inner turmoil, often veers into melodrama, stripping the emotional beats of their authenticity. The lack of backstory for key characters robs the narrative of depth and nuance, leaving the audience yearning for a more profound understanding of their motivations. Amidst the shallow characterizations, one glimmer of intrigue emerges in the form of Charlotte, Liv’s best friend. Portrayed by Cassi Maddox, Charlotte’s suspicions are piqued when she notices the undue interest Dr. Alexis Torres takes in Liv’s personal life and her attempts to reignite her career.
In the already crowded landscape of suspenseful dramas, Ruined falls short of carving its own identity. With underwhelming performances, a lack of character development, and a plot that fails to inspire genuine intrigue, the film languishes in mediocrity. The absence of chemistry between Liv and Landon, coupled with the shallow exploration of Dr. Alexis Torres’ motives, marred what could have been a riveting tale of love, revenge, and the human psyche. As the credits roll, Ruined leaves a lingering sense of disappointment. A missed opportunity to explore the complexities of relationships and revenge, the film ultimately fails to make a lasting impression. In a genre defined by its ability to captivate and provoke, Ruined falters, leaving its audience with a sense of unfulfilled potential and a longing for more substantial storytelling.