Dir.: Joanna Hogg; Cast: Tilda Swinton, Joseph Mydell, Carlly-Sophia Davis; UK 2022, 96 min.
Joanna Hogg’s envelopes her personal memories in her latest film combining Henry James and Sigmund Freud in an eerie tale about unprocessed grief and guilt between a mother and her daughter.
Rosalind and her middle-aged filmmaker daughter Julie (Swinton in doppelgänger mode) retreat into a stately haunted hotel in the Welsh countryside – which once belonged to Rosalind’s family, arriving on a miserable foggy night and appearing to be there only ones staying there. A celebration of Rosalind’s birthday is what they have planned, and Julie is hoping to get a few ideas for a film about her mother. The sequestered location sets an ominous the tone for the days ahead after an offhand receptionist (Davies) puts them in a dingy room where they are later disturbed by sinister noises during the night. Gradually they settle into a dreary routine where reality and fantasy seem to fuse. Then Julie’s dog goes missing.
Shot on 35mm film in Panavision with an evocative score, this is an imaginative reflection on how well we actually know our parents as people before we came along, and how their experiences colour our own lives. Rosalind 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. A piquantly tender often sadistic tour de force. MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL | GOLDEN LION 2022