RESURRECTION: 3 STARS. “From discipline to desperation, Hall’s change is complete.”
The long-term effects of abuse and control are detailed to vivid and violent effect in “Resurrection,” a new psychological thriller starring Rebecca Hall now playing in theatres.
Hall is biotech executive Margaret, a confident and mentor leader at work, a loving single mother to daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) at home. Her off hours are occupied by feverish physical training and a fling with married coworker Peter (Michael Esper).
Into her carefully constructed and compartmentalized life comes David (Tim Roth), an unwelcome visitor from the past. At first his presence exists only in the periphery. He attends a conference, almost unnoticed, sitting several rows in front of Margaret. Later, she sees him at a department store, and confronts him as he reads a newspaper in a park.
Turns out, David wants to rekindle their relationship, an abusive situation Margaret ended twenty-two years ago by fleeing, changing her name and rebooting her life. But, two decades later, the scars of their time together remain. Margaret is instantly flooded with memories of his physical punishments, which he paradoxically calls “kindnesses,” and the disappearance of their son Benjamin.
Fearing for Abbie’s safety, as well as her own, Margaret slowly unravels as David attempts to reassert his control over her.
“Resurrection” is a tough movie to describe without giving away salient plot points. It is the story of the lengths a person will go in defence of their loved ones and sanity. The more outlandish aspects of the story—no spoilers here!—only dig their hooks in because of the power of the performances.
Margaret’s turn from self-confidence to dazed-and-confused is expertly handled. From discipline to desperation, Hall’s change is complete. Her transformation is most effective in its subtlest moments, when her shifts in mind set are telegraphed by the twitch of an eye or a faint change in posture. A seven-minute monologue that reveals the nature of Margaret and David’s history is played out in one long, unedited close-up and is a master class in how to present exposition that hits all the right emotional notes.
Roth has less to do, but brings an air of menace to every frame of film he appears in.
“Resurrection” culminates with a horrifying scene that throws everything that came before into question. It confronts the audience with a gory scene that asks, How much of what we’ve just seen is real, and how much is fantasy? It is an unforgettable scene in the style of Ari Aster or David Cronenberg, but overpowers the film’s interesting look at female trauma, gaslighting and repression.