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film review

Margaret, played by Rebecca Hall, loses control over her carefully ordered life in Resurrection.Courtesy of TIFF

  • Resurrection
  • Written and directed by Andrew Semans
  • Starring Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth and Grace Kaufman
  • Classification R; 103 minutes
  • Opens in select theatres July 29, including the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto; available on-demand starting Aug. 5

Finally, the summer movie season has the psychosexual vomit-ride thrills that the likes of Lightyear simply could not provide. Yes, that sentence doesn’t make much sense, but then again neither does Resurrection, a silly and disgusting (but unfortunately not disgustingly silly) experiment that feels like the lost punchline to the infamous gag at the heart of the 2005 comedy documentary The Aristocrats.

Impossible to spoil – not because the ending is incoherent, but simply because no one would possibly believe a straight-faced synopsis of the action – writer-director Andrew Semans’s sophomore feature is guaranteed to be the most whaaaaaaaaaat-the-what movie you will see all year, god willing. I’m honestly still not sure what to make of it, seven months after I caught its virtual Sundance Film Festival premiere, where the film earned as much acclaim for Rebecca Hall’s lead performance as it sparked exasperated pleas for Semans to explain just what he is going on about.

The film opens with biotech executive Margaret (Hall) going about her upper-middle-class existence in upstate New York. She has a good if vaguely boring job, a stylish condo, and a surly teenage daughter named Abbie (Grace Kaufman) who she’s fiercely protective toward. But then a strange man played by Tim Roth shows up unannounced, perhaps stalking Margaret or maybe just coincidentally popping up wherever she happens to be at any given moment. Is he real, a figment of Margaret’s imagination? A reminder that Tim Roth is having a good run playing sleazy types following decades-younger women (see: Sundown).

The truth is delivered midway through the film by Margaret in a head-shaking eight-minute monologue, Hall’s face held in tight close-up, her face alternating between twitchy pangs of fear, passing flickers of pleasure, and deep chasms of regret. It turns out that Margaret … no, no, I cannot possibly go on. If you want to be alternately horrified and pushed toward eye rolls so extreme that your vision will be permanently damaged, then all you have to do is watch and see.

Tim Roth plays a sadistic man named David in Resurrection.Courtesy of TIFF

And it is at this point in the review where I would say something lazily comforting like, well, you just have to judge Resurrection’s twists for yourself. But I cannot in good conscience make such a straight-faced suggestion. Hall and Roth are both fearsomely committed here, but they’ve tethered themselves to Semans’s conceit with the thinnest, flintiest of genre ropes. The filmmaker is obviously toying with what horror films can be, with what audiences expect of both cheap thrills and high-priced performers. But I can’t admire, and don’t take much pleasure in, being tossed into Semans’s cinematic sandbox along with his well-compensated cast and crew.

Feel free to mistake this warning as a dare, though – the movies can’t be all Lightyear all the time. Just be prepared to come out the other side of Resurrection a changed person, though perhaps not a better one.

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