Who would have thought that Aja, the writer and director of The Hills Have Eyes (2006) and the scripter for Maniac (2012), could have produced such a complex and wonderful (and, of course, dark) modern fable? He really surprised me with this film, by making me care about the characters while also giving me a great mystery/suspense film at the same time. Sure, he couldn’t resist a couple gory moments; but only one was absurdly gratuitous, the rest were well within plot lines.
But, what is truly wonderful about this story is that, despite the description above, at its core this is a romance. And it is a romance that Radcliffe (What If) and Temple (Malificent) make you believe and feel for from the moment they come on screen. One of those deep, spiritual bondings that great magic is based on. (Even if it is a couple of Brits putting on perfect American accents again.) Temple, in particular, manages to impart a complex character with very little screen time. Radcliffe, for his part, continues to move from his Potter roots with this character, but also stretches his acting chops nicely.
While the rest of the cast is strong, Minghella (The Darkest Hour) and Morse (Treme) deserve specific mentions as well. They each navigate a difficult role without ever quite losing our ability to believe.
To say more about this film is to over-hype or expose it. Suffice to say that it is very much worth your time. It is even a good date film, assuming your partner and you can handle the rare and odd splash of blood (really, very rare). It is tale of love and growing up, of family and friends, of life and sacrifice. It isn’t for everyone, but anyone should be able to appreciate it.