Friday, July 10, 2020

Relic Review: A Suspenseful Family Endeavor

Release date: July 10, 2020
Running time: 89 minutes
Starring: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote

When elderly mother Edna (Nevin) inexplicably vanishes, her daughter Kay (Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Heathcote) rush to their family's decaying country home, finding clues of her increasing dementia scattered around the house in her absence.  After Edna returns just as mysteriously as she disappeared, Kay's concern that her mother seems unwilling or unable to say where she's been clashes with Sam's unabashed enthusiasm to have her grandma back. As Edna's behavior turns increasingly volatile, both begin to sense that there might be more to Edna's moods than they originally thought. 

This film is a wonderful family drama cloaked in a horror movie aesthetic.  Mortimer, Nevin, and Heathcote all are spectacular in their roles.  Most of the movie revolves around the family, and so the composition of the family is a main aspect of the movie.  Mortimer, as usual, controls the scene with her strong, yet vulnerable portrayal of Kay.  But it might be Nevin who is the best of this bunch.  She can become the focal point of a scene, changing the entire mood with simply a look.  She has a complicated character who goes through very quick, subtle (and sometimes explosive) mood swings and Nevin handles that perfectly.  Heathcote is very good as Sam, and when she has to go through some harrowing experiences as this character.  Overall the family composition is top notch and a real draw for this film. 

The majority of Relic takes place inside the family's decaying country home, and the set design is just fantastic.  The house is both touchingly welcoming and eerie depending on the time and lighting.  One scene can look like a happy meal and the next can be an ominous foreshadowing of things to come.  One thing I really appreciate about recent IFC Midnight Films, including this and the previously reviewed The Wretched, is the commitment to old school special effects.  CG in films has been a mixed bag, allowing the depiction of some truly otherworldly places and events when done right, but when done wrong it can be distracting, pulling you out of the experience, or a shortcut for filmmakers who don't want to do the work.  Relic, thankfully, foregoes unnecessary CG for old school effects and the film is made all the better from it.  The story is also a complicated story, with plenty of ominous moments, and it doesn't instantly drop the twist.  The film takes a long time to develop, setting the mood with wonderfully done tension and suspense.  And in the end, the film has multiple interpretations of the ending.  Is it truly a horror movie, or a look at something deeper within families?  

Relic has a fantastic cast, a wonderful commitment to traditional special effects, and a complicated, layered story that drips with suspense.

Watch it.
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