In Resurrection, writer-director Andrew Semans crafts an insidious thriller that digs its claws in and gets right under your skin. Anchored by a devastating performance by Rebecca Hall.
The audience is first introduced to Margaret Ballion off-screen. She is a voice questioning and responding to a young woman’s concerns over her boyfriend’s behaviour. The words indicate concern and duty of care. Yet the tone is forthright and has a steeliness to it. She sounds like someone with first hand experience of this and refuses to allow others to go through the same patterns.
To look at her, Margaret is a woman with her shit together. She has built the perfect life for herself. She has a high powered job. A loving daughter. A friends-with-benefits relationship with a married man who comes when he is called. Everything is on her terms and that is exactly the way she wants it. She wants, no needs to be in control.
The moment that control is threatened, we see a different side to her. The cracks begin to show relating to the imminent departure of her daughter to college. Her need to protect, perhaps over-protect, jeopardised by the inability to keep a watchful eye over her. Those cracks widen and her carefully constructed existence comes crashing down when she encounters a figure from her past.
It first happens during a conference. A sideways glance at a half-remembered face. She can’t be sure if it was real but it provokes an intense physical reaction. A panic attack that causes her to run home. She has been seen running before. However that running style was not a purposeful run, it is now clear it was in fact the run of someone running from something.
You can leave the abuse but the abuse never leaves you.
She encounters him twice more before she is unable to confirm the worst. He is indeed who she thinks he is.
This is a film best experienced as cold as possible. There are hints along the way but the truth, at least Margaret’s memories, of the nature of their relationship is only revealed around the halfway point.
Following turns in Christine and The Night House, Rebecca Hall truly cements her place as the best actress of her generation. There cannot be a single shred of doubt after one particular scene. A seven minute monologue performed in one single unbroken take as she recounts what happened with David to an unwitting colleague. Unburdening herself of the horrors she has kept locked up inside for 22 years. It is a shattering performance.
Credit must go to Semans as well. Many other directors would have cut away several times to the intern’s shocked reactions to this horrifying story but he keeps the camera fixed on Hall, forcing us to watch as she revisits the trauma as it bubbles up to the surface.
Thanks to Tim Roth, David Moore is arguably the most repellent villain of the year. His words and actions are reprehensible and inexcusable and yet there is something eerily magnetic about the way he operates. He never raises his voice, he simply calmly states what he wants and she finds herself complying against her will.
Does the resurrection of the title refer to Margaret’s rebuilding of herself following this relationship or to something (or someone) else? Although David’s return is painful, it may offer the chance for redemption.
The final act goes to some dark, dark places. Places that will undoubtedly split some audiences. However the destination is completely in keeping with Margaret’s journey as she regresses to the time of her abuse whilst simultaneously trying to push through it and emerge anew on the other side.
The Stone Roses sang “I am the Resurrection and I am the Light”. Following this film, as wonderful as she is in it, one does hope that Rebecca Hall will get to do something a little lighter next time. Give her a Hollywood romantic comedy. She has been put through the ringer too many times and needs a happy ending for once!
Resurrection screened as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival
Director: Andrew Semans
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman
Runtime: 103 minutes