This is a slippery film to watch and to discuss. It slowly builds its story and direction, constantly playing with your expectations and the story cliches you know. But it is its own story.
Watts (Eastern Promises) and Wright (The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo) work wonderfully together for the first 3/4 of the film. The last stretch feels less believable to me. In part, this is because the telling of the story changes a little and it becomes much more Wright’s story rather than both of theirs equally. This is a reflection of the path the story takes, but it is a little bit of a stumble in an otherwise smooth script. The rest of the cast is important and does well, but they are not the focus.
Director and co-writer, Fontaine (Coco Before Channel), really has a strong sense of story, character, and vision. She is also quite good at not judging her characters, but allowing the story to allow you to make your own choice. Hampton (The Thirteenth Tale), her co-writer, provides subtle dialogue, structure, and moments to capture the story well, particularly the chronological leaps. In this last bit, it is Fontaine’s ability with shooting the material that contributes to its success. On a technical level, the movie is sumptuous and well put together on every level… and I particularly liked the choice of music and how it reflected on the story. And, to be honest, some favorites of mine showed up, which didn’t hurt.
There is no question this film will elicit a strong response from any viewer. It will also stick with you for a while as you question the situation and the decisions. In my case, I even wondered how it might have been received if the main characters had been men rather than women, which I’m sure is part of the Fontaine’s point. I only didn’t rate it higher because, frankly, I didn’t need to see it again, but I very much appreciate seeing it the once.