Sundance Review: 'Resurrection' Loses Its Way

Directed by Andrew Semans

Starring Rebecca Hall, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone, Tim Roth

BY Rachel HoPublished Jan 27, 2022

Resurrection starts a world apart from where it ends. A psychological thriller about a woman's fight with PTSD, director Andrew Semans' sophomore effort is a steady stream of neuroses until it flies off the rails in the third act.

When we're first introduced to Margaret (Rebecca Hall), she appears to be a woman in control. She has a corner office, exercises regularly, and has a casual sexual relationship with a colleague, Peter (Michael Esper), that seems to work for both parties. Margaret exudes pure confidence until, at a work conference, she catches a glimpse of a man (Tim Roth) she thinks she knows from another life. She sees him again in a department store while shopping with her daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman), and outside her workplace. With each encounter, Margaret's armour is chipped away.

According to Margaret, this man is David Moore, a former partner from her youth who was emotionally abusive. Having escaped him once, she descends into a deep state of paranoia, insomnia and generally unhinged behaviour in the name of protecting Abbie from a harm no one else can see or understand. Margaret's erratic behaviour is a cause for concern to Abbie and Peter, but Margaret isn't dissuaded and continues to descend into madness.

Resurrection is Rebecca Hall's playground. Her performance is single-handedly what keeps this film afloat. Her ability to shape-shift between a woman in control and one on the brink, forces audiences to second guess whether she is telling the truth or if her worries are completely of her own creation. Midway through the film, Hall delivers an eight-minute monologue about her past with David. Sitting in a dark room, the only light is brushed across her face. The camera is still and remains focused on her for the entirety. Hall's ability to fully engage her audience with nothing but her voice and enunciation is magic.

Given how dynamic and compelling Hall is, Resurrection is frustratingly one-note. The exploration of Magaret's mental health issues is raw and gritty. Anyone who has witnessed paranoia first hand will recognize some of Margaret's anger, fear and outbursts — as well as those from Abbie. As poignant as this depiction is, that's all the movie rests on.

Resurrection feels like it goes around and around, reiterating the same point. By the time the film reaches its conclusion, it relies on shock value and ambiguity. The imagery is gruesome and disturbing, and while it does make sense (kind of?), it doesn't feel like it fits the movie we started watching. The very final note of the film is meant to be a surreal, ambiguous ending that will have audiences debating its meaning. But after the endless roundabout, it feels more like a crutch rather than an earned send-off.

When Resurrection works, it works pretty well — the exploration of mental health is gut-wrenching. But if what you're after is a killer performance from Rebecca Hall in a compelling psychological thriller from start to finish, The Night House is always available.

The 2022 Sundance Film Festivals runs online from January 20 to 30.
(Secret Engine)

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