“Resurrection” – From life [MOVIE REVIEW]

Rebecca Hall as Margaret in "Resurrection." Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

As “Resurrection,” written and directed by Andrew Semans, opens, one is immediately struck by Rebecca Hall as Margaret, the focus of this hybrid of psychological horror. She is a commanding presence and it is difficult to imagine another actress dominating the screen like she does. Her Margaret is beautiful, confident, accomplished, and loving. The very act of tucking in her blouse tells you everything you need to know about her. She adores her teenage daughter Abby who she raised as a single mother, and works her social schedule around that of her daughter. Abby, taking a clue from her mother, is self confident and independent, ready for college and to face the world. 

Rebecca Hall as Margaret in “Resurrection.” Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

Margaret, rocking a tailored suit and silk shirt, leads a clinical study at her biotech firm as they prepare to launch a new product. She also mentors one of the interns, advising her on how to overcome a toxic personal relationship. Her mantra to Gwyn is that she deserves better, can do better, will be better. Margaret seems to be talking from experience but there’s no way to judge because the only man in her life is Peter, a married colleague who has been given the status of a friend with benefits in secret and only when Abby is out of the house.

In short, Margaret seems to have it all until… she spots David at an outside work conference she’s attending. The antithesis of her cool and calm persona, she bolts, breathing erratically, wild-eyed, sweating profusely, running all the way home fearful that Abby is in danger. Finally exhaling, she gives no explanation but she is at the start of a freefall. David, who seduced her when she was 18, controlled and manipulated her until she lost all sense of self. The one, and only, golden moment she shared with him was the baby they had, Ben. A devoted mother then, as she is now, she left Ben in David’s care only one time so she could go to the store. Upon her return, Ben was no more. Gasping at the horror, Margaret fled, created a new identity, and hoped that she had gone far enough away that David would never find her.

Tim Roth as David in “Resurrection.” Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

But the very calm and collected David, a true sociopath, knows exactly how to elicit a reaction. His very presence is a threat to everything she has achieved, but mainly to Abby. She has no doubt that he is capable of harming her daughter as he did their son. She becomes more protective and overbearing to Abby; her work suffers and soon she is no longer going in. Peter seeks her out only to be roughly rebuffed; Abby can’t stand to be around her mother. Margaret is losing her grip on reality, succumbing to David’s every whim played out in the background. Her life is consumed by David, his seemingly serene manner in direct contrast to her reaction to his demands. And always it points back to Ben and what he claims to have done with him, giving her the illusion of hope.

David’s claims about Ben will not be revealed here because that is the very essence of what may or may not be real and a clue to the horrific denouement of this scenario. I, personally, am not a big fan of the horror genre. I am, however, a junkie for the psychological thriller; and until Semans ultimately gives into a “Grand Guignol” tale of violence, horror, and sadism, he had the makings of a first class character study of a woman gradually going stark raving mad as various pieces of her life began to fall apart. 

Tim Roth as David and Rebecca Hall as Margaret in “Resurrection.” Photo courtesy of IFC Films.

Regardless of one’s view of horror films, throughout most of the hour and forty five minutes “Resurrection” is a study in the psychology of a woman undergoing a nervous breakdown. It flows quickly, fluidly, and smartly. Margaret has been keeping secrets buried for many years, and like a dead body that floats up to the surface there are consequences for the guilty and the survivors.

Rebecca Hall as Margaret is nothing short of smashing, from beginning to end. She makes you feel the pain she has been carrying and the secrets she’s been hiding until they burst forth, taking her with them. The disintegration is subtle, yet relentless. This is a tour de force performance.

Tim Roth as David is a textbook-classic sociopath. His performance is so subtle that he puts a wedge between the audience and Margaret. Never raising his voice or his fist in anger, he is a velvet-gloved tyrant who controls with the disappointment he feels in Margaret’s choices. The threat of danger is always present but not quantifiable. What he claims to have done is impossible. The fact that he convinces Margaret is his gift. Roth has never been more deadly and he was in “Reservoir Dogs”!

In support, Michael Esper as Peter and Grace Kaufman as Abbie are very very good. 

Andrew Seamans directed this with a sure hand. As a writer in the horror genre he is effective until the end, when he doesn’t really find a way out of the hole he dug for himself. The unnamed city (allegedly Albany) becomes a character as Cinematographer Wyatt Garfield’s camera emphasizes the angles of the buildings that are as architecturally interesting as the sharp edges of Margaret’s gait, dress, and hairstyle. 

Opening Friday, June 29 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center and the Laemmle Glendale. Available On Demand August 5th.




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