ALWAYS SHINE (2016) Reviews and overview



Always Shine is a 2016 American psychological thriller feature film directed by actress and filmmaker Sophia Takal (New Year, New You; V/H/S) from a screenplay by her husband Lawrence Michael Levine, who also stars.


Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald play two friends who go for a weekend retreat to Big Sur. It also stars Caitlin FitzGerald, Khan Baykal, Alexander Koch, Michael Lowry, and Colleen Camp (Knock Knock; Earth vs. The Spider; The Vagrant).



Two women, both actresses with differing degrees of success, travel north from Los Angeles to Big Sur for a weekend vacation.

Both see the trip as an opportunity to reconnect after years of competition and jealousy has driven a wedge between them, but upon arrival to their isolated, forest retreat, the pair discovers that their once intimate friendship has deteriorated into forced conversations, betrayals both real and imagined, petty jealousies, and deep-seated resentment.

As the women allow their feelings to fester, each begins to lose their bearings not only on the true nature of their relationship, but on their own identities…



“Takal’s movie succeeds from every angle: psychological thriller, classic two-hander, and a feminist exploration of women’s prescribed roles in Hollywood and beyond. It’s simultaneously incredibly pleasurable and quite disturbing, owing to its chilling elements and commentary on larger issues.” IndieWire

” …a psychological thriller that feels like Persona by way of Single White Female. With her confident second feature, director Sophia Takal (Green) takes on Tinseltown misogyny and the toxic rivalry between friends, but that’s mere prelude to a gonzo meta-fiction that deconstructs itself nearly to death.” Variety


” …a thriller whose stylistic flourishes betray ambitions beyond milking genre auds for an easy buck. Strong performances propel a movie that wears its influences (De Palma, Lynch) on its sleeve without feeling like a copycat. It’s stronger in both aesthetic and commercial terms than Joe Swanberg’s 24 Exposures, the 2013 stalker pic that co-starred Takal…” The Hollywood Reporter

Cast and characters:

  • Mackenzie Davis as Anna
  • Caitlin FitzGerald as Beth
  • Lawrence Michael Levine as Jesse
  • Alexander Koch as Matt
  • Jane Adams as Summer
  • Khan Baykal as Paul
  • Colleen Camp as Sandra
  • Michael Lowry as Vic
  • Marisa Takal as Violet

New and future releases