By Betsy Sherman
rebecca hall gives Resurrection the psychological grounding it needs, as the thriller extends into a macabre, fable-like payoff.
Resurrection, directed by Andrew Semans. Video streaming on demand
Rebecca Hall is the mesmerizing presence at the center of Resurrection. The feature film, written and directed by Andrew Semans, is among a subset of recent thrillers (made by male filmmakers) that look at the damage caused by toxic masculinity on female leads. As in Leigh Whannell The invisible man and the surrealist Alex Garland Men, it’s the conviction invested by the lead actress (Elisabeth Moss and Jessie Buckley, in those cases) that gives the viewer something to cling to, while the film itself is less than fully cohesive. living room gives Resurrection the psychological underpinning it needs as it extends into a macabre, fable-like payoff. Despite its hiccups, the film has enough substance in its more serious aspects and enough awe in its terrifying parts to make it worth watching.
Hall plays Margaret, an executive who values toughness, physical and mental, above all else. She is a value that, in the opening scene, she is trying to instill in her young intern, as she has done with the daughter she raised herself. Ella’s daughter Abbie is about to turn 18 and move on to college.
Margaret has an athletic body, a stylish wardrobe, and a compartmentalized life that includes casual sex with a married colleague. While she is at a biotech conference, as she listens to a presentation, Margaret lets her eyes wander among the men in the room. When they see a certain middle-aged gentleman, in a split second the distance between her and a trauma from her youth collapses. She runs out of the room. Tim Roth stars as David, the man he loved when he was 18, but who emotionally abused her in a situation that, as we learn more about it, appears to be a classic case of gaslighting. Margaret fears that David has come to take advantage of his daughter.
This is a story of PTSD and how it has consequences across generations. Margaret has kept her past a secret, but tells the backstory of her abuse in a monologue (delivered by Hall for seven minutes, uncut). Margaret, a lonely teenager who loved to draw, traveled with her biologist parents from Britain to a research station on an island off the west coast of Canada. David, a British scientist some 20 years her senior, took an interest in her. She fell in love with him, happy to be his “muse”. Her parents let her move in with him and then they came home. In that isolated environment, the older man created a world of rituals and euphemisms with which he controlled his young lover, eroding her sense of self. After a heartbreaking tragedy, Margaret escaped and built a life for herself.
Part of that life was having a child regardless of any relationship with a partner. It is through Margaret’s protection as a mother that David is now able to continue his gaslighting (the infiltration begins with the placement of a mysterious tooth). Once Margaret confronts David, the film shifts into a world of suspense. Although we continue to stalk him, it is clear that he is still the cat and she is the mouse.
what detours Resurrection Far from the standard routine of victim becoming avenger, it’s an absurd, and quite admirably sick, claim David makes. He planted this seed in Margaret’s mind years ago, and it still has the power to throw her off balance. I won’t reveal what its plot is, but it gives the film a welcome touch of unpredictability akin to Italian giallo horror. A gruesome narrative passage is shown to be a nightmare. But does it also represent something real? Or is it just a hallucination?
One of ResurrectionThe more bumpy shifts between drama and film genre involve the alarm we come to feel for Margaret’s daughter. Maternal concern for Abbie’s safety becomes her own form of abuse: Margaret forbids the teenager from leaving her apartment, at first lying about her motive. Grace Kaufman does an excellent job in this difficult role: initially her mother treats her like a friend of hers, but eventually she becomes a prisoner.
Hall, who returns to acting after directing last year’s magnificent film Step, does not openly try to make Margaret sympathize. However, despite her character’s flaws, it’s hard to remain intact as we watch her sob in exhaustion and terror after her fights with David. Roth (star of one of my favorite releases this year, Sunset) turns David into an unexpected mix of sleaze and cunning: he suggests a tenured professor at a small liberal arts college they just can’t get rid of. Speaking clearly and firmly, he turns words into weapons. David claims that the endurance tests he put “Maggie” (as he calls her) through in her youth made her a warrior; if that’s true, he’s likely the target of her attack.
And it’s so nice that the couple can speak with their British voices in the American setting. She separates them into a little psychodramatic bubble that bubbles between us.
betty sherman has written about movies, old and new, for the boston globe, boston phoenixY improper bostonian, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in archives management from Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science. When she grows up she wants to be Barbara Stanwyck.