The 1985 film Deja Vu, directed by Anthony B. Richmond, tells the story of a writer who, after seeing an old ballet film called Sigida, becomes convinced that both he and his wife are reincarnated souls of the dancer and her choreographer. The movie dances around multiple genres including romance, drama, and the supernatural, but ultimately it’s a story about true love and the fateful meeting of two souls through time, dragged down by a murderer who wants to see them separated despite their spiritual connections.
Based on the novel Always by Trevor Maldel-Johnsen, Deja Vu follows the budding novelist Greg (Nigel Terry) as becomes obsessed with the deceased ballet dancer Brooke Ashley (Jaclyn Smith), who bears a striking resemblance to his current fiancee Maggie. His quest to write a screenplay about Brooke leads him to some strange dreams and an old Russian hypnotist named Olga (Shelley Winters) who used to know Brooke before she died. Ultimately Greg uncovers an arson/murder attempt that original murdered his past self Michael, Brooke, and her mother Eleanor Harvey (Claire Bloom) and realizes that the culprit is yet again trying to take their lives, and happiness, away.
Richmond’s film has not fared well over the years in terms of popularity, and it’s not surprising why Deja Vu was not very well received. The script is quite slow despite a strong lead performance by Terry, and often the film devolves into a lot of scenes involving Greg attempting to investigate Brooke Ashley’s life, segmented by flashback sequences wherein Michael and Brooke flirt and romance each other. While these are necessary for the plot, the relationship between the two seems fractious because of Michael’s facetious qualities, and overall Richmond gives the audience no reason to see them as soulmates per se.
It also doesn’t help that Winters is terribly miscast in her role as Olga, adopting a bad Russian accent and unintentionally chewing scenery in every minute of film. Thankfully her role is kept to a minimum, but the damage is done – it’s too difficult to really take her character or scenes seriously, eliminating a lot of the tension when Greg is undergoing hypnotherapy to learn about his past life.
However, some of the supernatural elements are handled fairly well including a creepy phone call, the appearance of a hooded figure in Greg’s dreams, and a murder mystery that – while somewhat predictable – does add an entertaining element to the proceedings. The final act, too, is surprisingly downbeat despite the romantic interludes. While Greg and Maggie aren’t destined to be together, the film carries over its spiritual belief that fate and love are interconnected through life and death, and Deja Vu‘s finale at least hints at that prospect.
There’s a more interesting storyline here that never really takes shape, one that involves the slow poisoning of Greg through the use of pills that could cause hallucinations and paranoia. These moments are few and far between and Richmond never explores them, and it’s unfortunate that this psychological element lacks a depth that could have made the film much more interesting.
Deja Vu is a fair film – it’s really neither good or bad, but somewhere in between – and fans of supernaturally-infused romance movies will probably find some enjoyment in this 90 minute affair. However, the predictable nature of the storyline will make viewers feel like they’ve seen it all before.
Olive Films has released Deja Vu on Blu-Ray with a very limited package, albeit similar to most of their releases. The video quality has not been enhanced or restored, simply ported to Blu-Ray with little fanfare. The picture features a soft image and occasional blurriness, as well as some very dark contrast in dim scenes. Overall, it doesn’t look amazing, but it is certainly watchable and I believe the only Blu-Ray release for the film. Audio comes with one selection, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, and sounds good despite inevitable flatness. There are also English subtitles included.