The Other Robert Mulligan

This could have easily been a cheap potboiler, an evil child movie to put beneath The Exorcist and The Omen. But director Robert Mulligan (of To Kill a Mockingbird fame) lends such credibility to the material that you watch, spellbound. The Depression-era story features two twin boys, Niles and Holland Perry (Chris and Martin Udvarnosky), the latter of whom seems largely hostile and somehow owns the signet ring that was buried with his father. Then, accidents start happening, largely with Holland’s interference. Still, Niles remains loyal even after their mother (Diana Muldaur) takes a fall and is paralysed. It’s then that Holland’s true nature is revealed. The film takes a turn that could be ridiculous in the wrong hands (and may remind you of recent Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters) but Mulligan’s camera never falters in rendering a child’s magic/realist perspective or in the melancholy that follows each senseless tragedy. He simultaneously makes you feel sad or sinister without milking things for melodrama — everything bubbles just under the surface and lets the disappointment of family togetherness hit you the moment it’s betrayed. The Udvarnosky boys are also surprisingly sensitive actors who well differentiate their parts and hold you convinced that they are the people they say they are. Uta Hagen is also excellent as their Russian grandmother, who guides Niles to the second act discovery. The film is decidedly minor but it’s a stylish and sensitive attack on what could have been a throwaway and it’s credible to the very finish. One wishes Mulligan could be working today to give heft to the horror remakes that are currently blighting the film landscape. (Fox)