The filmmakers responsible for Proxy have described it as a spiritual successor to Rosemary’s Baby, which is an incredibly bold statement that one cannot make without complete confidence in the material. It follows a pregnant woman named Esther who is violently attacked on her way home from an OB/GYN appointment and subsequently suffers a miscarriage. At the advice of a social worker, she joins a support group for grieving parents. There are a quite a few twists and turns from there. The movie is very psychological and nothing is never what you expect it to be.
The characters are definitely the highlight of Proxy. Alexia Rasmussen stars as Esther, who is an incredibly lonely woman. The focus for much of the film is on her. We get a lot of long, silent shots of Esther alone in her house, especially early on in the picture. These scenes really help to sell the loneliness and the emptiness of her character. Esther doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in the movie, but Rasmussen’s performance is layered nonetheless. So much of her character comes through in her eyes. She can look at people and we see her studying them. She sees people who are happy and it looks like she’s trying to solve a complex puzzle. She will look at people who are in love and it looks as though she is completely baffled by why and how they love things. Physical performances often go incredibly underrated and this is certainly one that deserves recognition.
Alexa Havins plays Melanie, a woman that Esther meets in the support group. She tells Esther that she lost her husband and son in a drunk driving accident but that is quickly revealed to be stretching the truth. Esther relates to Melanie, sees her as the only friend she has, the only person in the group that she can even relate to. Melanie, more than anything else, just seems to see Esther as there. She doesn’t care the same way that Esther cares, which only makes their friendship more interesting. Joe Swanberg plays Melanie’s husband. He doesn’t enter the movie until fairly late, but he becomes a fairly integral part of the story from then on.
Kristina Klebe turns in an exceptional performance as Esther’s lover, Anika. This is a character who has quickly proven that she will do anything for Esther. She comes off as cold and domineering, but no character in this movie has only one side. That’s the best thing about it. Characters who appear to abrasive can also be warm in their own way and characters who appear to be victims are anything but.
It’s hard to discuss the film without giving too much away. Proxy is one of those pictures that simply unravels. Each scene keeps unfolding into the next, revealing something completely unexpected and new. The character’s relationships are not pretty, by any means, nor are they healthy. They’re ugly, in fact. But all that helps the movie to feel refreshingly real. In some ways, the filmmakers are right. Only instead of being a spiritual successor to Rosemary’s Baby, it’s more of an inversion. Satan is not at work in this picture. There’s nothing outwardly wrong with the world except the people in it. It’s the Rosemary character that’s the problem, not the baby this time around.
Even though some truly terrible things happen in Proxy, the characters are given enough time and handled carefully enough that it’s actually hard to hate any of them, no matter how extreme their actions may be. And trust me, every single character does something unforgivable and none of them is a traditionally good person. So, the fact that we care is a testament to the writing and the performances. Above all, it becomes a movie about honesty as well as about dealing with the loss of a child. As such, it’s about the ugliest, least-heartwarming movie that has ever dealt with the subject. It explores things that are rarely if ever talked about, like the fact that parents may not love their children or have them for the right reasons. Some just have children because people notice you when you have a child and people treat you like you are important. To these characters, the child itself means less than nothing. Above all else, that’s where the true horror comes from in Proxy.
If there’s anything that might throw people off about this movie, it’s the shift in tonality. Everything changes halfway through, including the main character. This is a serious deviation from traditional film structure that is sure to alienate some viewers. An hour into the movie, it feels complete. The whole thing feels like its over. Even if its jarring, the second half is unsettling and contemplative. Proxy is definitely worth watching through to its end if you can get through the bump in the middle. It’s a movie that will constantly keep you guessing.
Director(s): Zack Parker
Writer(s): Kevin Donner, Zack Parker
Stars: Alexia Rasmussen, Alexa Havins, Kristina Klebe
Studio/ Production Co: IFC Midnight
Length: 120 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Home Invasion, Psychological Thriller