Film Review: Resurrection
Director: Andrew Semans
Tango Entertainment and Square Peg
In Theaters 07.29
There have been some memorable films this year that fall into a number of categories, but only a select few that are truly unique. Whether it’s your cup of tea or not, Resurrection, the provocative psychological thriller from director Andrew Semens, is certainly unique.
Rebecca Hall stars in Resurrection as Margaret, a businesswoman and single mother to a teenaged daughter, Abby (Grace Kaufman, The Sky is Everywhere). Margaret is the kind of strong woman that everyone comes to for advice, both professional and personal. Margaret’s cool and assured demeanor changes when she attends a work conference and spots an all-too familiar face: her ex, David (Tim Roth). It seems that in her youth, Margaret was in a controlling and abusive relationship with this man, and the powerful hold he had on her took two decades and Margaret putting an entire ocean between them to escape. This master manipulator has tracked her down, though he’s shrewd enough to avoid any direct threats. In fact, David simply hovers until an unnerved Margaret finally confronts him. The horrifying details of Margaret’s past, and the reason she’s never told anyone about this man, are too painful for her to share with anyone, and Maragret’s paranoia, protectiveness of Abby and sheer desperation are easily mistaken for a serious mental health issue.
Semans (Nancy, Pleace, I’d Rather Be Dead Than Alone In This World) makes a lasting impression, writing and directing Resurrection with skill and vision that suggest the birth of an exciting auteur. This is hardly a pleasant film, and it’s not necessarily the kind of horror movie that is going to connect with mainstream horror fans, which is to say it’s neither The Conjuring nor Halloween. If you’re hoping for jumpscares, or progressively outrageous, creative killings, Resurrection is not the horror film you’re looking for. This is a film about psychological trauma, the ways that fear, guilt and the desire for approval can make us lose control over ourselves, and how they can be used insidiously to control others. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some spooky, gorey or even borderline supernatural elements, though the latter are left decidedly ambiguous and open to the viewer’s interpretation. The ending recalls Martin Scorsese’s classic Taxi Driver in the best possible way, and, like that film, you may find it hard to decide which interpretation is the most disturbing.
Hall gives what may be a career-best performance as Margaret, a woman of extraordinary strength and even more extraordinary sorrow. If I’ve had any misgivings about Hall as an actress in the past, it’s never been in acting ability; it has been in whether she makes for a commanding screen presence. Margaret is a tour de force character who utilizes Hall’s ability to be believable as someone who fades into the background while still giving her an amazing opportunity to strut her stuff as a powerhouse protagonist. The despicable yet fascinating David is a difficult role, and Roth is perfectly cast. At any moment you may go from questioning how Margaret felt an attraction to him to feeling his darkly mischievous charisma start to take hold, and it’s hard to picture any other actor being nearly so effective in the role.
Kaufman, a wonderful talent who is easy to love, is crucial to making Resurrection work so well, playing the film’s most relatable character, one who is heartbreaking on multiple levels.
Resurrection isn’t a film that I’m going to see over and over again, though it’s worth studying for the skill with which it is made. It also makes a powerful statement that being a victim isn’t equivalent to weakness, lauding the strength it takes to get out of a toxic situation. Resurrection is riveting, deeply upsetting and transfixing filmmaking. –Patrick Gibbs