The Eternal Daughter (2022)

November 18th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Joanna Hogg; Cast: Tilda Swinton, Joseph Mydell, Carlly-Sophia Davis; UK 2022, 96 min.

Joanna Hogg envelopes personal memories in her latest film -a ghostly tale that echoes Henry James and Sigmund Freud. The Eternal Daughter is all about the unprocessed grief and guilt between a mother and her daughter, or is it her adopted daughter?.

Rosalind and her middle-aged filmmaker Julie (Swinton in doppelgänger mode) retreat to the Welsh countryside to stay in a stately haunted hotel which once belonged to Rosalind’s family. Arriving in swathes of mist on a dank December night, they appear to be the only guests in residence. A celebration of Rosalind’s birthday is supposed to be the highlight of the trip that Julie is hoping will also provide a few ideas for a film about her mother.

The eerie sequestered location provides an ominous setting for the days ahead which get off to a bad start when the two women find themselves at the mercy of an offhand hotel receptionist (Davies) who puts them in a dingy room where Julie hardly gets any sleep, disturbed by sinister noises during the night. Gradually a dreary routine sees reality and fantasy fuse in a malign atmosphere where Julie’s creative juices fail to flow, her dog becoming an acute barometer for the enigmatic goings on while also echoing Julie’s suppressed feelings of anxiety in her desire to please her mother who is submerged by her own unreliable memories of the past  

Shot on 35mm film in Panavision with an evocative score, this is an imaginative reflection on how well we think we actually know our parents as people before we came along, and how their experiences colour our own lives. Rosalind was the child of Victorians in a distinctly un-permissive world shaped by the maxim “never explain, never complain”. She lived through wartime but her recollections seem suppressed by a desire to put a positive spin on the past and bury her true feelings. And although the past is still a foreign country for Julie, she and her mother are actually more similar than they imagine, locked together in a timeless bond through their intimate background. Hogg’s unique idiosyncratic style with its witty English sensibilities once again triumphs and is instantly relatable for her niche audience of committed cineastes. The Eternal Daughter is a delicate but thematically redolent memoire that adds to her distinctive archive. A piquantly tender often sadistic tour de force. MT




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