Andrew Seman’s Resurrection is a twisted tale of madness and revenge, an old-fashioned, spare, almost Hitchcockian psychological thriller.
The always-fascinating Rebecca Hall stars as Margaret, a single mother working for a biotech company who is on the verge of entering her empty-nest phase. With her daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) about to go to college, Margaret feels especially protective of her and more smothering than usual.
But it’s when she spots a mysterious person from her past that her momma-bear instincts really hit a fever pitch.
One day during a work seminar, she spots a man she used to know named David (Tim Roth) casually sitting in on the lecture. Shortly after, she runs into him at the mall and then on a park bench. Entirely on edge at the sight of him, she finally confronts him only to have him – at first – claim he doesn’t know who she is. However, a few choice phrases make her sure that he is exactly who she thinks he is, and that realization makes her start to lose her mind. And rightly so.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the dynamic between Margaret and David, as it is clearly revealed in an intense 7-minute monologue Hall gives to an intern at her workplace. With Seman’s camera solely on her face, the torment and terror of what David means to her is palpable. And understandable. And it is their tete-a-tete that gives this movie its weight.
Hall just can’t seem to ever give a bad performance, and she chooses such fascinating (and weighty) subject matter. From last year’s The Night House, back to Christine (which she was robbed of an Oscar nom/win for), she never fails to create characters that are at once unlikeable but also relatable. They are always on the verge of insanity (or maybe they are already insane), and the ride she brings us on is beguiling.
Roth, too, does excellent work here as Margaret’s “blast from the past.” He is at once kind and sympathetic, but deep down, there is genuinely distressing darkness. When he talks about “Ben” and where Ben now is, it never fails to be unnerving.
Similarly, as Margaret’s put-off daughter, Kaufman gets put through the wringer, too. At once, she’s just a typical eighteen-year-old trying to establish her independence. But she, unfortunately, has to deal with being a mother to her own mother as Margaret starts to lose control of her faculties. It’s a layered role, and Kaufman delivers. I’m curious to see what she does next.
Semans is a spare yet elegant director who doesn’t overdo it with any showy cinematic flourishes. His focus is on the actors, and for this type of film, that’s where it should be. The dialogue is biting and rich, giving the actors a lot to work with. And the storyline itself is fresh and creepy.
If I were to pick at anything, it would be the film’s final act that moves in an esoteric direction. The final scene really makes you wonder what exactly has occurred (in a similar vein as Alex Garland’s recent film Men), and I’m not so sure it is a satisfying way to go.
That said, there are lots to sink your teeth into here, namely Hall’s compelling performance and a truly disturbing plot that examines the subject of grooming and the control one person can have over another without batting an eyelash.