The Movie Waffler Sundance 2022 Review - RESURRECTION | The Movie Waffler

Sponsor

Sundance 2022 Review - RESURRECTION

resurrection review
A woman's life is derailed by the appearance of a figure from her past.

Review by Ren Zelen

Directed by: Andrew Semans

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Angela Wong Carbone, Josh Drennen, Michael Esper

Margaret (Rebecca Hall) is a successful businesswoman and single mother of a teenage daughter. She has a nice apartment and a calm daily routine including a bout of intense running to keep fit. At work she is leader of her team and a wise and trusted confidante for the romantic difficulties of her young female employees.

She’s also having an affair with Peter (Michael Esper), one of her married co-workers. It’s a sexually charged but undemanding relationship where Margaret can chat quite happily about Peter’s family after they’ve had sex. She feels free to organize her life as she likes - it is structured, regular, contented, and her daughter Abbie, (Grace Kaufman) is the centre of her world.

One day, while at a dull business conference, Margaret’s attention wanders and she begins to casually look around at her fellow attendees and sees the profile of a man, several rows away. It is then that all her self-possession and assurance shockingly fall away and she flees from the venue in the throes of a full-on panic attack.


Clearly it is a man that she recognizes and from that moment on, she doesn’t have a moment’s peace of mind. She becomes fearful for her safety and that of her daughter, of whom she is fiercely protective.

Soon, she sees the man casually strolling around a store where she is shopping with Abbie, and later, she spots him sitting across the lawn in a nearby park, reading a newspaper. Mentally shaken and getting to the end of her tether, Margaret decides to confront him.

He is a man from her past called David and a weird conversation ensues. Margaret demands that he goes away and leaves her alone, and after a few moments of apparent ingenuousness, he calls her by her name and cryptically responds that he "still has Ben."

Andrew Semans’ second feature Resurrection is a film which unravels its mysteries slowly, inviting the audience to ask who is David? Who is Ben? Why do they hold such terror for a seemingly self-assured and powerful forty-something career-woman like Margaret?

resurrection review

Margaret goes to the police, but of course, they can’t help her as David is too clever to do anything overt and she has approached him first. We witness Margaret’s growing panic as she tries to keep David from encroaching further into her life.

To the bemusement of her daughter and her colleagues, Margaret suddenly seems like another person – distracted, frantic, paranoid and even aggressive. She fits more sturdy locks on her doors and demands that Abbie stays in their apartment and does not leave or answer the door for any reason.

Determined to protect her child, yet refusing to share the reason for her fear, Margaret reassures her daughter, "Don’t be scared," but what is really frightening Abbie is her mother’s unexplained, overpowering panic.

Margaret begins to behave erratically in the office, worrying Peter by her strange, nervy behaviour. Whatever David represents, it’s something so disturbing that Margaret retreats from the confident and capable businesswoman she once was, becoming haggard and withdrawn. She begins to alienate those around her who try to help.

As David chips away at the secure life and personality Margaret has created for herself, alternating between professed affection and veiled threats against her and her daughter, her reality and sanity begin to fall apart. Her biggest dread is losing Abbie, but she is soon on the way to doing exactly that.


Ominously relevant was Margaret’s advice to a young female employee in the first scene when warning her of a toxic relationship, as she declared, "a sadist never understands why others aren’t enjoying the sadism as much as they are."

It's telling that the same young colleague witnesses Margaret’s own confession of abuse and manipulation at the hands of a sadist (a compelling monologue from Hall) and has no idea what to do with that information. She slinks away, confused as to how to react when faced with the trauma and weakness of her erstwhile idol.

Tim Roth’s David is a movie monster of the most sinister kind, presenting a reasonable face, professing understanding and affection for his victim, while demanding she offer "kindnesses" to him - painful feats of physical hardship and endurance, to atone for her unreasonable and recalcitrant behaviour. He’s a manipulative and sadistic abuser, who also tortures Margaret psychologically with an unhinged story concerning a particular trauma in their shared past.

It's this which finally sends Margaret over the edge and creates a bloody and bizarre denouement which leaves us all off-balance and unsure as to who or what to believe.

Resurrection offers another arena for the talent of Hall. In films like Christine and The Night House (both premiered at Sundance, as did her directorial debut Passing), she has demonstrated a gift for playing characters in emotionally extreme situations. Resurrection explores the themes of guilt, manipulation, motherhood, abuse, trauma and co-dependence. Matched by Roth at his most menacing, Hall again gives an uncompromising, compelling performance which raises the caliber of every film in which she appears.