One of several exciting releases coming at you during this Women in Horror month is Reunion, a modern gothic tale that should delight fans of slow-burn stories.
The film follows pregnant Ellie (Emma Draper), who returns to her grandparents’ home following their deaths. At the house, Ellie joins her mother, Ivy (Julia Ormond) and her ailing father, Jack (John Bach). The film focuses mostly on the relationship between the two women. Ellie has returned to the home to help prepare for its sale but also to write an academic text.
It’s clear upon Ellie’s arrival that the mother-daughter relationship is strained, and has been for some time. Once she settles into the house, Ivy’s attempts to bond with her daughter are rejected. The reason for the tension between the two women is not immediately clear. However, as the film progresses, more detail is revealed.
As mentioned, this is slow-burn film. It takes time for the suspense to build and for answers to be revealed. But the payoff is worth the wait. The film is laden with a moody atmosphere. That feeling intensifies and takes a bleak turn as the scenes progress. Subtle changes in aspects such as weather and the characters’ appearance take place throughout the course of the film. In some ways these changes mirror the mental state of the home’s inhabitants.
Soon after her arrival, Ellie starts having flashbacks to her childhood. These start off in short snippets, providing just enough information to hook the viewer. As the film progresses, the flashbacks come more often. Along with this, the tension between mother and daughter intensifies. As a viewer I found myself initially feeling more empathy for the mother. However, this changed with time and my opinions of the characters were different by the end.
To avoid spoilers, I won’t reveal much more of the plot. I will say that there are several themes threaded throughout the film. On the surface it’s about the relationships between women and the roles that we play. It’s also about secrets and the lengths some go to in order to keep them buried.
The flashback scenes combined with present day show how familial secrets can fester. What’s buried can damage relationships and destroy trust that’s difficult to rebuild. This is evident in the relationship between Ellie and Ivy. It’s also present in their interactions with the father. The film also shows how memories can be distorted, and our childhood perceptions can change with time, an adult perspective, and new information.
The highlights of the film for me were the dark atmosphere, building sense of dread, and strong performances by the female leads—especially Julia Ormond. I’m a big fan of quiet, gothic horror set in big houses. This was reminiscent of favorites such as Burnt Offerings or Crimson Peak, but still held its ground with a unique premise.
This is a film that would benefit from multiple viewings. There are hints of some occult-related elements and talk of non-linear events that pop up throughout the film. I think upon a second or third watch, I’d notice more of the small elements that weren’t gathered the first time. And this might answer some of the lingering questions that myself and other viewers have at the ending.
Then again, not all stories require every question answered to be enjoyed. Reunion is one such film that stands strong in this way, as it will haunt many viewers for some time to come.
Reunion is available from February 5 in theaters and VOD/digital.
Wicked Rating: 8/10