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THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER: 3 ½ STARS. “It’s not about thrills, it’s about mood.”

“The Eternal Daughter,” now playing in theatres, is a gothic ghost story set at a hotel, but don’t check in expecting thrills and chills. This is psychological drama that plays upon the power of memories to create a sense of unease.

Written and directed by Joanna Hogg, the film stars Tilda Swinton in a dual role as screenwriter Julie Hart and her elderly mother Rosalind. Julie is in the early stages of writing a film about her relationship with her mother and has planned a stay at a stately, but remote hotel that once belonged to Rosalind’s aunt, in Wales. In the quiet of the Welsh countryside Julie hopes to mine her mother’s memories for details to enrich her screenplay.

When she was evacuated from London during the Blitz, Rosalind lived at the hotel, then a grand country mansion. Julie questions her about that time, “Were you aware of the war going on?” but Rosalind is reticent to dredge up some of the old memories. She remembers the happy times, but grows heartfelt when evoking the death of her brother, lost in the war during battle over the English Channel.

“You always said you had such happy memories here,” says Julie. “Oh mom, I’m so sorry. I feel so bad for bringing you here.”

“I did have happy memories here,” Rosalind replies, “but I also had other memories here and they’re all still alive.”

Despite her mother’s attempts to placate her, Julie is distraught at the pain she has caused by bringing Rosalind back to her childhood home. “It’s really difficult for me to think of her as being sad,” Julie says.

There is a fuzzy line between fantasy and reality in “The Eternal Daughter.” The old hotel, run by a tetchy front desk clerk (Carly-Sophia Davies), whose passive-aggression brings some humor to the staid situation, creaks in the night and shadows loom in the corners. It is the perfect Gothic breeding ground for Julie’s growing dread and paranoia. Director Hogg takes her time revealing the film’s direction, and whether or not characters, like the groundskeeper Bill (Joseph Mydell) are real or a figment of Julie’s imagination.

It’s not about thrills, it’s about mood. As the two women attempt to connect, to find a way through the memories to a real, tangible place, Hogg creates melodramatic psychological miasma that questions the very proceedings on the screen. There are no easy answers, as Swinton, masterfully playing both mother and daughter, explores the connection between reality, fantasy and memory, but the questions about identity left by the story will linger.

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