‘The Eternal Daughter’ Review – Venice Film Festival – Deadline

The phrase “Joanna Hogg’s shutter island” is not a line that many critics expect to release in their lifetime, but with her sixth feature, the British director has made a fascinating foray into genre cinema which, while remaining firmly in step with the rest of his quasi-autobiographical works, makes a startling departure from the upper-middle-class realism of his seminal film Memory.

Participation in the Venice competition The Eternal Daughter stays pretty much in the same social background and reunites Hogg with Tilda Swinton in a dual role, but there’s also a huge sense of unease here, that it’s seen as a scary story about a woman’s search for self or what it’s like to book a stay in the UK these days.

Swinton plays Julie, a filmmaker who takes her mother Rosalind (also Swinton) on a birthday trip to an ancestral home, which is now a hotel. Julie has two goals in mind, one is to share time with her now widowed mother before it’s too late, but she’s also working on a film project about her mother’s life, which she soon finds out. ‘It will involve picking up painful secrets. Contrary to Memory films, however, which covered similar territory, The Eternal Daughter is a ghost story, shrouded in fog and evoking, very effectively, the specter of MR James and his existential thrills.

To Hogg’s credit, this vanity is respected and not abandoned. Arriving at the hotel, mother and daughter hear the taxi driver’s tale of a strange face that once appeared at the window, and Julie’s first night is disturbed by strange sounds that only she can. apparently hear.

Julie’s mother’s dog, Louis – presumably one of the actress’ stellar pack, who featured prominently in Remembrance Part II – begins to act strangely, crying into the night and running away when the door to the hotel room mysteriously opens. But through it all, Julie is a strangely passive character; like the lead role in Hogg’s 2007 debut Unrelated, she’s an observer of life, fascinated by the rude hotel receptionist she spies on spending her free time on Instagram and bickering with her boyfriend at night when he picks her up in his music-blasting car.

At first, the gothic trimmings suggest they may only exist as a way into this story, as Julie finds her bearings in the creaky old building – filmed, incidentally, in the heightened style from the cult 1980s British TV show. Hammer House of Horror, with creepy flute music. However, there is no bait and switch: the veracity of the various supernatural elements may be subject to interpretation but the story remains tied to the conflict between the living and the living dead. There’s also a deceptively rich level of metatextuality to the way he does it – are we just seeing the process that Julie goes through as she tries to make the movie she wants to make? Or has she, as in the case of the protagonist of Remembrance Part II, already done ? If we want to go even further, a more cerebral point would be this: who is in fact the ghost here?

These Chinese canned narratives often tend to be oblique and frustrating, not to mention pretentious, but for a receptive audience – and, let’s face it, mostly the middle-aged genre – The Eternal Daughter will strike a very strange but significant nerve as a film about this time in our lives when the things we take for granted are suddenly ripped away. In that sense, it’s a film about absence as much as presence, and it’s fitting that the stylized end credits bear more than a passing resemblance to the opening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 classic. Rebecca (you can draw your own conclusions).

Curiously, this is also where executive producer Martin Scorsese’s name appears, and it’s not at all a stretch to see Hogg’s film’s appeal to him in terms of overlapping with shutter island as a story of love, guilt and denial to the unreliable narrator.

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