Written and Directed by Andrew Semans.
Starring Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone, Winsome Brown, and Josh Drennen.
Margaret’s life is in order. She is capable, disciplined, and successful. Everything is under control. That is, until David returns, carrying with him the horrors of Margaret’s past.
When advising on a toxic relationship in the opening scene of Andrew Semans’ sophomore feature Resurrection, Rebecca Hall’s Margaret asserts that “a sadist never understands why others aren’t enjoying the sadism as much as they are,” an eerie remark that seems to come from the character’s personal experience. The majority of this speech is one Rebecca Hall delivers off-camera, but her unmistakable voice is nonetheless full of sharp wisdom that sucks the viewer into the conversation. It’s also not her only monologue in the movie, as she crushes another that reveals how, well, sadistically fucked up Resurrection is and what twisted psychological game is being played.
This conversation is also key to attaining a greater appreciation for the material, which quickly descends into a narrative more interested in this highly disturbing concept than expanding and fleshing out the characters themselves. The intern (played by Angela Wong Carbone) doesn’t seem to realize the guy she likes is behaving somewhat problematic towards her, frequently cutting her down with humor as a person. This might not be the same way Margaret has been cut down before, but she recognizes an unhealthy dynamic instantaneously, generating a bond that allows her to open up about her trauma later in the story.
For right now, that’s irrelevant, as Margaret is successful career-driven, and the mother of college-bound intelligent PC gamer daughter named Abbie (Grace Kaufman). She’s also overprotective toward her offspring, especially when she starts noticing a manipulative man from her past subtly stalking in public places (something the police can’t do anything about). That man is David (a skin-crawlingly creepy Tim Roth capable of sending shivers down the spine with a terrorizing smirk), a former romantic flame. The less said, the better, as one of the high marks for Resurrection is how unbelievably nuts his actions in their previous life together was.
For some perspective, allegations of abuse centered on Armie Hammer and Marilyn Manson came to mind watching this one, so there’s a trigger warning for you. Resurrection goes to some dark places, explaining away somewhat of a BDSM relationship based on submission and praise to horrifyingly abusive lengths (not to mention it’s already concerning considering the age gap between characters in that Margaret was barely 18 when they got together).
By far, the strongest aspect of Resurrection is the central performances from Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, the former of which is trying to maintain her renewed independence and empowerment in the face of a distressing mind game that gives the former some bizarre material to play with. Grace Kaufman is also a standout as the sheltered teenager on the verge of adulthood who doesn’t understand why her mom is freaking out more than usual. Even when the story feels like it’s going in circles and becoming repetitive (not to mention that the solution to this dilemma is pretty obvious to figure out), they carry a hollow script livening up the proceedings with bombastic work. Rebecca Hall is dynamite here, but it still feels as if her tour de force talent is really just a Band-Aid for a story that’s only appeal is weirdness.
If nothing else, Andrew Semans is committed to that gimmick and certainly doesn’t cop out during the climax, which is ultimately what pushes Resurrection from mixed bag to worth checking out. The score from Jim Williams also adds some pulsing intensity. Resurrection could have been a truly unforgettable experience with some tweaks and a little more depth to its script (there are also unanswered questions such as why is David only now coming back to harass Margaret), but it’s most definitely some compelling shock value elevated by Rebecca Hall taking such a trashy thriller seriously.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com