Kay (Emily Mortimer) and her daughter (Bella Heathcote) learn that Kay’s mother (Robyn Nevin), who suffers from dementia, has disappeared; the walls of her house turn out to have mysterious mould stains. The kind of horror movie that may appeal more to critics than regular audiences, working a social message into the story; the same year’s His House addressed the refugee crisis, this one finds an effective way to talk about dementia and aging. The film may not deliver a punch in the gut, but it’s inventive, especially the tender but horrifyingly absurd final scene, mirroring the grief that dementia victims’ families suffer.
2020-U.S.-Australia. 89 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, Riva Marker, Anna McLeish, Sarah Shaw. Directed by Natalie Erika James. Screenplay: Natalie Erika James, Christian White. Cast: Emily Mortimer (Kay), Robyn Nevin (Edna), Bella Heathcote (Sam), Chris Bunton, Jeremy Stanford.
Last word: “It’s quite a personal origin story. I co-wrote it with my co-writer Christian White, so we’ve kind of been on it from the outset. My grandmother actually had Alzheimer’s herself. I started writing the project on the trip to go visit her, and it was the first time she couldn’t remember who I was… and the first time I had a sense of someone who had only ever looked at you with love looking at you like a stranger. That feeling really stuck with me. She also lived in this quiet, creepy traditional Japanese house that really scared me as a kid. Those things just came together.” (James, Forbes)