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DIRECTED BY: Andrew Semans
FEATURING: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman
PLOT: Margaret is a successful executive at a biotech firm who is in total control of her life until an unsettling figure from her past reappears after a twenty year absence.
COMMENTS: Sweet, home Capital District. It’s where Margaret hangs her hat. It’s where she takes her daily runs, adopting an air-slicing locomotion that hints at both determination and long-buried agitation. It’s where she raises her daughter, Abbie, and works her job at an unspecified kind of biotech company. Albany, New York: worth a visit, worth a lifetime stay. And for Resurrection‘s heroine, a place to escape to after a nasty experience on the opposite side of the continent.
The super-charged atmosphere of “things are going well” telegraphs early on that this is all about to change. (That this screened at Fantasia, preceded by a particularly enthusiastic introduction by festival coordinator Mitch Davis, also telegraphs this.) Rebecca Hall’s performance morphs from woman of steel into jagged pieces of sweat-caked paranoia at the appearance of a rather mild-looking, and mild-mannered, man from Margaret’s past named David (Tim Roth, doing us the courtesy of perfectly capturing understated evil). Margaret’s tightly wound self is cranked another turn, triggering the manic crash into the madcap finale.
Beyond my personal satisfaction of witnessing so many of my greater hometown’s landmarks on the big screen (an odd oval-building observed near the beginning, dear readers, is called “the Egg”), Resurrection generally exhibits every hallmark of a well-considered psychological horror movie, replete with increasingly unreliable narrator. Its approach to interpersonal power dynamics, particularly the dangers of charisma coupled with gaslighting, is dead-on. Tim Roth, on the surface, does not do much, but to perform as David, in this stage of the relationship between him and Margaret, he merely needs to prod ever-so-slightly for her to resign herself to performing the “kindnesses” he demands. Rebecca Hall carries her topsy-turvy character along a narrow path of believability, veering from dominance to terror, and supplication to hatred with ease, and sometimes within the same line.
The reason we’re considering this film on a weird movie site is because of the finale, about which I can say little for fear of giving away too much. Suffice it to say, while the build-up alone is worth it (Hall, Roth, and comparative neophyte Grace Kaufman all bring their “A” games), the culmination of David’s manipulation and Margaret’s crack-up makes for a memorable emergence of Owen Johnson to the world of cinema, as “Benjamin”—the baby who, twenty years prior, catalyzed the ensuing madness.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“[Resurrection] winds up several stops north of bonkers, in a finale that shoots for transgressive, psycho-biological role-reversal, but plays like 1994’s Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Junior given a torture-porn makeover… Nothing is a joke in ‘Resurrection,’ which takes itself so seriously in the commission of its increasingly bananas plot that all the craziness can’t even be said to be that entertaining — the odd surreal image aside.”–Jessica Kiang, Variety (contemporaneous)