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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

RELIC (Film Review)

                                  Starring: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote

                                                  Directed by: Natalie Erika James


     The loss of a certain individual to a family can be a destructive entity all in itself - the person you've all come to know and love and rely on for emotional support is now gone. You're left with only memories to suffice your mind and ease your grieving soul, but what about the ones left behind who are slowly slipping away? Director Natalie Erika James' (who up to this point has only lensed short films) leaps into frightening waters with her first full-length feature, Relic. It serves as a heavy dramatic mood-sourer for a spell before wrenching its direction towards full-blown haunted house chiller - it's a bit creepy, a bit drawn out, and an ultimately saddening prospect that many of us have (or could possibly) face as time moves on.

  Using her own grandmother's battle against the crippling effects of dementia, James focuses her story solely on a three-generational span of women for this presentation. Edna (Nevin) is the eldest of the three, and the mother to Kay (Mortimer) and grandmother to Sam (Heathcote). Edna's been slowly spiraling downwards in her later years due to the disorder, and she's disappeared from her remote home in the woods, prompting a call from the local authorities to Kay & Sam to assist in the search. Upon arrival to her home, it's now concretely implied that Edna has begun to exhibit signs of the sickness - furniture in disarray, a plethora of notes stuck to the walls reminding her of the most mundane of everyday tasks - she's even left food out for the family pet that's been dead for years. Almost inexplicably one night, Edna returns to the house yet it's clear that outside of the relentless distress that her own mind has put her through that something else isn't right with the frail old woman. Sam and Kay opt to stay at Edna's home to look after her for a short stay and discuss where this latest episode will lead them in regards to her future care.

  It does take a while to ramp this presentation up, but all the building and formation of the story does pay off in the movie's latter stages, eventually jumping that gap from the teary Hallmark-styled exhibition to a dreary, look-over-your-shoulder fright-fest. We as the audience sit and wait in the home's dimly lit hallways and hold our breaths every time Edna is seen standing with her back to us, mumbling incoherently - is she possessed to an extent or has the malady taken full-hold of her psyche? It's the eventual regression of all three of our female leads is what works to hammer home the emotional worriment factor - you literally begin to feel their pain in the situation - it's palpable and practical to the story. If you're hinging your hopes on an all-out shrieker with Relic, you'll probably be disappointed but trust me - this is so much more than a horror film, and that's where this one excels as one of the better movies to run this kooky course known as 2020. It'll be available July 10th on VOD & digital platforms and shouldn't be missed.

FILM RATING: 4 out of 5

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