Directed by Can Evrenol.
Starring Clémentine Poidatz, David Sakurai, Alicia Kapudag, Defne Halman, and Ali Aksöz.
On a snowy eve, Little Holly’s sister and father are killed by her frantic mother. Years later, Holly is married, lonely, and her life is soon about take a turn for the ultra weird, when she visits “Umbrella of Love and Mind”.
Can Evrenol’s Housewife undoubtedly worships at the altar of Bava and Argento, Lovecraftian tentacles snuggly holding bits in place, but homage doesn’t maketh the movie. Go ahead and remain enamored by Evrenol’s vision. As Baskin first proved, and now Housewife assures, Evrenol will deliver a gorgeous array of shots no matter the source material. Now, do those shots link together to form a coherent – nay, coherent *enough* story? An entirely different question that Baskin barely eeks around while Housewife provides no such reason.
Clémentine Poidatz stars as Holly, a woman who lives with the memory of her sister and father’s death at the hand of their wife and mother. It’s been years since the incident, and Holly how finds herself amidst motherhood discussions of her own. One night Holly attends an “Umbrella of Love and Mind” seminar run by leader Bruce O’Hara (David Sakurai). They preach following our bodies and embracing our dreams, and Holly is chosen explicitly by O’Hara to join their ranks. Why? For reasons Holly will wish she never knew.
Or thinks she knows? That maybe we know? Honestly, it’s all Devil’s tongue to me.
If you think my quickie synopsis is weird and foreboding enough as is, splendid. Don’t expect much more explanation. Housewife is a film in which, over a fancy dinner, Holly’s husband Tim (Ali Aksöz) announces plans of their future pregnancy only to *immediately* be met, by Tim’s accompanying friend, with a line about child birthing cults. You know, typical restaurant table talk? Evrenol and co-writer Cem Özüduru waste no one’s time suggesting some wicked cultish mama-drama is about to unfold, and it sure as Rosemary’s baby does. Pacing just feels a bit off, like subtlety is a villain of filmmaking.
What audiences can expect from Evrenol’s sophomore feature is a synapse-frying head trip you’ll either become comfortably lost or frustratingly dazed. Sometimes critics describe films that spin “wildly out of control” as a means of chaotic praise, and other times it’s more a playground carousel flinging children who are unable to hold on. As Bruce O’Hara dances onto stage swinging his umbrella, “I’m Your Boogie Man” his entrance theme of choice, cults of personality take hold. Gala attendees applaud, beam joy, and the viewer begins to question Umbrella of Love and Mind – which is precisely where Housewife unravels.
The linear through-line of Housewife is harder to follow than a snake that’s knotted itself and now swallowing its tail. Also just as intriguing? As Holly tries to differentiate between O’Hara’s tour through broken recollections and life outside the “Umbrella” event, so do we. It’s a glorious orgy of bodies, deceit, and sultry colorization, but one lacking depth beyond canvased Italian influences. We tumble down the rabbit hole with Holly, grasping for roots as a means of collecting ourselves, but stabilization never happens. Bludgeoned by madness, thrilled by weightlessness, yet left cold by style over substance standards.
Holly’s journey from trauma-inflicted survivor to “Chosen One” navigates dream realms, reality, persuasion, and gender boxing. Tim declares their desire for children before Holly even conferring with Holly. “But I love her,” exclaims Tim. “No you don’t, you’re just a good actor.” Holly sees dreamboat Bruce O’Hara for the answer to all her prayers, but it only leads her right back to Tim’s words. There’s something cyclical about her journey – one soaked in blood, bringing forth toilet demons, recreating grisly murder memories, flaying facial masks, etc. – that ends in the throws of motherhood. Striking images of a fully-nude Holly walking upstairs with her newborn “child,” complete with red color filtering, clearly display an eye for shot selection – but continuity becomes quickly forgotten. All twisting back to a frame-one reveal bordered in neon pink.
With Baskin, Can Evrenol made damn sure I’d see anything with his name attached. Confidence in creative direction is far harder to come by than you’d expect, and Evrenol’s films have been anything but sheepish or safe. Housewife, unfortunately, struggles to wrangle in a story of burlap mongrel children and summoning apocalyptic parenthoods despite such an bold style. Astounding to behold with your eyeballs, but appreciation halts at an optic level. Then again if you’re all revved up over Bava, Argento, and Lovecraftian appearing in the same sentence, you should probably give this one a shot no matter what. Antoni Maiovvi’s infectious synth and chimes original score *must* find its way into more earholes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram (@DoNatoBomb).