Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Kim Farrant
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Yvonne Strahovski, Richard Roxburgh, Luke Evans, Finn Little, Annika Whiteley, Tracy Mann.
The sophomore feature from Australian filmmaker Kim Farrant (Strangerland) this taut but flawed psychological thriller is a remake of Mark Of An Angel, the 2008 French thriller from Safy Nebbou (Who You Think I Am), which was supposedly based on actual events. The script has been adapted by Luke Davies (Oscar nominated writer of Lion) and David Regal (a television writer who has written for The Wild Thornberrys, Everybody Loves Raymond, etc). As with Strangerland this drama deals with maternal grief, instinct and longing and looks at how far a mother will go to protect her child.
Lizzie (played by Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, best known for her role as Lizbeth Salander, the anti-heroine of the original The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy) is a mother still grieving over the death of her baby daughter in a fire seven years earlier. Unable to let go, Lizzie is something of an emotional mess, popping pills and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her ex-husband Mike (Luke Evans) is filing for full custody of their young son Thomas (Finn Little, from the recent Storm Boy, etc) as he fears that the unstable Lizzie is unable to adequately care for him and that her “darkness” is affecting him. But then while attending a birthday party for Thomas’ classmate, Lizzie spots Lola (Annika Whiteley) and instantly believes that she is her daughter.
Lizzie begins to ingratiate herself in the life of Lola and her mother Claire (Yvonne Strahovski, from The Handmaid’s Tale, etc) under the pretext of buying their house when they move to Perth. Lizzie also turns up at the skating rink, Lola’s ballet performance and even at a party at the park. Her behaviour crosses that fine line between obsession and stalking, and moves into restraining order territory. As Lizzie’s behaviour becomes more unhinged and desperate, Mike and her family begin to fear for her sanity.
There is some understated direction from Farrant, who infuses the material with many genre tropes and some clichés. But she slowly builds up the tension in the second half as the film moves towards its denouement. There are a couple of unexpected twists that even hardened mystery fans may not see coming. The first half though seems a little unevenly paced. Gabe Noel’s cello driven score adds to the atmosphere.
The film has been nicely shot on location in some of Melbourne’s leafy bayside suburbs by Andrew Commis (Girl Asleep, etc), who brings a slightly sinister quality to the familiar and calm setting for the unsettling events that unfold.
Rapace brings an intensity and a chilly quality to her performance as the unstable Lizzie and is quite convincing. Strahovski brings a calm and quite quality to her role. However both Richard Roxburgh, as Claire’s patient and understanding husband, and Evans are given little to do beyond lending their names and reputation to the production.
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