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Film Review: “Resurrection” Breathes No Life into Its Grotesquerie

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | July 28th, 2022

Film poster: “Resurrection”

Resurrection (Andrew Semans, 2022) 1 out of 4 stars.

There is a point in Resurrection—the new, deeply unpleasant film from writer/director Andrew Semans (Nancy, Please)—where there is still hope on the cinematic horizon, the artist’s vision tantalizing us with gripping intrigue. And then it all goes to hell, quickly and without mercy. Despite the valiant efforts of lead actors Rebecca Hall (Godzilla vs. Kong) and Tim Roth (Bergman Island), the narrative first falters and then collapses under the weight of trite devices masquerading as serious attempts at discourse. The more Semans strives for meaning, the worse the mess. There is no reviving this miserable corpse.

Hall plays Margaret, a bigwig at a medtech company in Albany, New York (she’s British, everyone else American). We meet her right away, listening to Gwyn (Angela Wong Carbone), a twentysomething co-worker, discuss the domineering man in her life. Margaret is incensed at the way he treats her and encourages Gwyn to stick up for herself. As we will eventually learn, she has direct experience with this kind of narcissist.

Rebecca Hall in RESURRECTION ©IFC Films

At home, Margaret is a little less self-assured, a single mother about to say goodbye to her high-school-senior daughter, Abbie (Grace Kaufman, The Sky Is Everywhere), who will soon be off to college. Anxious enough, already—about Abbie’s everyday safety, the future, and more—Margaret is plunged into a panic when she spies, at a local conference, David (Roth), an abusive man from her past.

She wastes no time in confronting him, though he initially denies he is who she thinks he is. There is a twisted delight in these early scenes, watching such two excellent actors go at it, dueling back and forth. We don’t know what to believe, and out of such enigmas are compelling dramas made.

l-r: Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth in RESURRECTION ©IFC Films

Unfortunately, the script quickly spirals out of control, trafficking in tired tropes of trauma-induced mental illness that do the film no justice. For a better use of Hall’s skills in portraying a breakdown, check out the flawed, but far more interesting, The Night House. In Resurrection, the horrific revelations about Margaret’s early life become somehow trivialized by the outrageousness of the movie’s conceit.

The backstory that comes out in a simultaneously heartbreaking and monstrous monologue Margaret delivers to the poor, unsuspecting Gwyn is next-level bizarre, beyond what even the most depraved horror-movie director might devise. And while such novelty, even if grotesque, is rarely a bad thing, the plot developments that follow ping pong between extremes of hallucinatory surreality and genuine emotional distress that refuse to come together in even tenuous cohesion. Laugh, cry, or scream: there is no there there.

l-r: Tim Roth and Rebecca Hall in RESURRECTION ©IFC Films

I’ll nevertheless give Semans points for imagination. He is true to his central idea, however preposterous it turns out to be. And yet he cannot resist the temptation to hint at the notion that none of it is real, meaning that our own trauma from watching this ordeal could be for naught. React or don’t to what you watch; none of it matters.

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), as well as a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is a former cohost of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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