Always Shine

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Always Shine
Always Shine.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sophia Takal
Produced by
Written by Lawrence Michael Levine
Music by Michael Montes
Cinematography Mark Schwartzbard
Edited by Zach Clark
  • Little Teeth Pictures
  • Visit Films
  • Salem Street Entertainment
Distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories
Release date
  • April 15, 2016 (2016-04-15) (Tribeca Film Festival)
  • November 25, 2016 (2016-11-25) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $16,140[1]

Always Shine is a 2016 American psychological thriller film written by Lawrence Michael Levine and directed by Sophia Takal. The film stars Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald as two friends going for a weekend retreat to Big Sur. It also stars Levine, Alexander Koch and Jane Adams.

The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 15, 2016.[2] It had a limited release on November 25, 2016, by Oscilloscope Laboratories.[3]


Beth (Caitlin FitzGerald) is an actress who is finally beginning to have commercial success appearing in cinematic thrillers and beer commercials which routinely require nudity. She plans a weekend getaway to Big Sur with her best friend Anna (Mackenzie Davis), a struggling actress who works for free in student films.

On the way to Big Sur, Beth is recognized by a fan. Anna soon discovers that Beth has been featured in the "Young Hollywood" edition of a popular magazine. Later that day, the two women have a conversation, during which Anna reveals that she broke up with her boyfriend after getting angry with his boss, and shoving him rather aggressively.

Anna and Beth go to a bar where Anna flirts with a man who quickly loses interest in her, as he finds her too aggressive. He instead asks out Beth, who accepts his dinner date despite having a boyfriend.

The next day, Anna helps Beth practice for an upcoming audition, after which the two go hiking in the woods, where they encounter Beth's director friend who has wanted to cast Anna in his upcoming short film. Anna is dismayed to learn that Beth was already aware of this offer but never mentioned it to her. Beth accuses Anna of looking at her with contempt, and scurries away.

While hiking alone to their rented cottage, Beth is offered a ride home by a kindly bartender. After returning to the cottage, Beth calls her boyfriend to tell him that Anna is jealous of her, even though Beth still feels insecure about the quality of her acting career. Overhearing the conversation, Anna physically attacks Beth, who flees into the woods with Anna in pursuit-- and the altercation continues there.

The next day, Anna begins to dress in Beth's clothes and acts demurely, much like Beth, who quickly notices Anna's odd behavior (not to mention the fact that she tends to follow Beth around). Anna (as Beth) returns to the bar where she encounters the kindly bartender. The two flirt, and have a tryst.

The following evening, while he and Anna are having dinner at the home of his friends, Anna sees Beth (now acting like Anna) approaching her and flees into the woods, where the two have yet another altercation. Beth attempts to choke Anna, who manages to turn the tables, fatally strangling Beth. Shortly afterward, Beth's body seems to vanish. The following morning, Anna awakens in the woods. As she returns to the house, Anna sees police officers wheeling away a body they found in the woods.



Sophia Takal revealed in an interview that, from 2011 to 2014, she and Lawrence Michael Levine attempted to get financing, get recognizable actors, and not have herself act in the film.[4] Takal cast Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin Fitzgerald since they had a deep understanding of the material.[4] While filming, the cast and crew lived in a house in Big Sur and would do meditation and cook dinner.[4]


A Kickstarter campaign was launched to finish the post-production on the film, a goal of $18,000 was set, but ended up making $22,483.[5]


The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 15, 2016.[2][6] Shortly after, Oscilloscope Laboratories acquired distribution rights to the film.[7] The film went onto screen at the Montclair Film Festival.[8] Venice Film Festival,[9][10] and the AFI Fest.[11]

The film was released in a limited release on November 25, 2016.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

Always Shine received positive reviews from film critics. It holds a 89% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 37 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The consensus states: "The tense and well-acted Always Shine tells an absorbing story while making a sharp, thought-provoking statement on women's roles in Hollywood."[13]

Scott Tobias of Variety gave the film a positive review writing : "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."[14]


  1. ^ "Always Shine". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 17, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Always Shine". Tribeca Film Festival. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  3. ^ Nolfi, Joey (October 19, 2016). "Actresses clash over bad blood in creepy Always Shine trailer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c Erbland, Kate (April 21, 2016). "How the Competitive World of Hollywood Pushed Sophia Takal to Make Her Chilling 'Always Shine'". Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  5. ^ Takal, Sophia (April 2, 2016). "ALWAYS SHINE - Tribeca Film Festival world premiere!". Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  7. ^ McNary, Dave (May 11, 2016). "Cannes: Oscilloscope Buys Mackenzie Davis Drama ‘Always Shine’". Variety. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Always Shine". Montclair Film Festival. Retrieved May 11, 2016. 
  9. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (July 26, 2016). "Venice Days Unveils Lineup With Accent on Women Directors". Variety. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Always Shine". Venice Film Festival. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  11. ^ "AFI FEST 2016 Unveils New Auteurs, Shorts, American Independents and Midnight Sections". AFI Fest. October 18, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  12. ^ Sharf, Zack (October 19, 2016). "‘Always Shine’ Trailer: Sophia Takal’s Award-Winning Thriller Is One Of The Year’s Indie Discoveries". Retrieved October 19, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Always Shine (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 29, 2016. 
  14. ^ Tobias, Scott (April 15, 2016). "Tribeca Film Review: Always Shine". Variety. Retrieved April 23, 2016. 

External links[edit]