Resurrection seems like a clichéd title for a horror movie, particularly in the year of our dark lord 2022. It’s fitting, then, that the sophomore feature from writer-director Andrew Semans (Nancy, Please) really goes there and then some. As tempting as it is to put into words just how crazy this movie gets, to do so would spoil the fun. Resurrection is a slow-burn, mannered and disciplined to a fault, mirroring protagonist Margaret (Rebecca Hall, excellent as always) – at least in the beginning. But, much like Margaret, when everything falls to pieces it’s in the most gnarly way possible.
When we first meet Margaret, she’s a high-powered suit with a great job in a fancy office – the kind of angular space that typically only exists in David Cronenberg’s version of Canada and makes you wonder “is this the future?” – advising an underling how to get out of a bad relationship. Margaret’s advice is frank, even harsh, and ruthlessly to the point. Men are stupid and, when they behave badly, women need to tell them and then leave if the situation doesn’t immediately improve. We get the sense that Margaret has lived a difficult life and fought hard for her privileged position.
Naturally, Margaret is also lonely and disillusioned, as all high-powered women in movies must be. She sadly drinks beer alone at night, in front of the TV, before calling a married lover for a quick bout of no-strings-attached sex. Later, when this man confesses his love to Margaret, she scoffs that men can’t stick their dicks in something without loving it or hating it, a line that wouldn’t work in a lesser actor’s hands. She also has a teenage daughter, the believably grumpy Abbie (Grace Kaufman, impressive), who’s on the brink of heading off to college, leaving Margaret inescapably alone.
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Just when she seems to have a handle on everything, albeit begrudgingly when it comes to Abbie leaving, Margaret spots a mysterious man from her past at a conference. Then she sees him in the park, and at the mall, ultimately deducing he’s stalking her. Margaret reports her concerns to the police, but they reason that he’s done nothing wrong, and is simply using the same public spaces she is, such is his right. But, after confronting the man, Margaret finds herself even more confused as she’s forced to grapple with past trauma long since buried – and the resurrection of the title.
Tim Roth is gifted the coveted “and” here, so it’s not surprising when he shows up as the ghost from Margaret’s past, a smarmy, considerably older academic named David who essentially groomed her as a teenager. Roth is perfectly cast, not least because he’s the only other Brit in the movie aside from Hall, instantly marking David out as an outlier. The actor’s rugged handsomeness has always had an edge to it, right back to Pulp Fiction, and here it’s used brilliantly to throw Margaret off at every turn, even as she’s forced to do increasingly excruciating tasks to please him.
Margaret is an over-protective, even overbearing mother, with Abbie quipping at one point that she’s being “even more suffocating than usual.” There’s a great shot of Margaret sitting on the sofa next to her sleeping daughter, with one hand placed firmly on her back, almost like she’s afraid the teenager is going to spring up at any moment and make a run for it. David plays off her anxieties about their shared child which, crucially, and despite the appearance of a dead baby in an oven, wasn’t aborted, in a way that’s difficult to put into words but also makes a sick amount of sense.
There’s an argument to be made for Resurrection as a radically feminist film, given how it delves into, with scalpel precision, the nature of abuse, scars of trauma, and the thankless job of motherhood. Despite the fact it’s a male writer-director, Hall serves as an executive-producer and there are plenty of women working behind the scenes too. The styling is terrific, displaying how Margaret is gradually unravelling through her messy hair, smudged makeup, and wrecked suits while the score by Jim Williams, who also composed the music for Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, funnily enough, starts off urgent and string-heavy, gradually incorporating staccato beats as Margaret’s life falls apart. Resurrection is very to the point; there’s nothing superfluous about it, much like Margaret herself, with each piece carefully considered.
Regardless, this is Hall’s movie, through and through. Roth is a perfect foil for her, but he hangs back, giving his co-star the space to inhabit her character completely. There’s a monologue midway through, during which the camera barely leaves the actress’ face, everything else in the room shrouded in darkness around her, and it’s a powerhouse, a stunning demonstration of Hall’s inarguable talents that once again marks her out as one of the greatest performers of her generation. Even when you’re not sure where the film is going, or whether it’s aiming for metaphor or literal madness, Hall is its irrepressible anchor. She’s wonderful, imbuing Margaret with layers of hurt even the woman herself can’t quite manage to excavate.
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Resurrection is inescapably Cronenbergian, particularly the blood-soaked, balls to the wall finale, when it becomes clear Semans really is going there. Likewise, it’s a sleek, angular film, which takes its time unravelling the central conceit just as Margaret loses her grip alongside it. The gory denouement will likely be the biggest talking point, which is fair enough, but the haunting look in Hall’s eyes is even more memorable.
Catch Resurrection in theaters July 29 and On Demand and digital August 5
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Andrew Semans
Writer(s): Andrew Semans
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman
Release date: July 29 (theaters), August 5 (On Demand and Digital)
Run Time: 103 minutes