Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor Joy, Matt Smith, Diana Rigg, Michael Ajao, Syonnve Karlson, Jessie Mai Li, and Terence Stamp.
Directed By Edgar Wright
Where I Watched it: Apple (VOD)
English Audio Description Available: Yes
The Plot: Ellie (McKenzie) heads off to school with big dreams, and stumbles into a portal back to the 1960’s where everything seems much sexier, and Ellie finds herself engaged in this fantastical world, that soon starts to unravel everything she knows.
What Works: I don’t want to spoil things, but I might say some things here that are slightly spoilery depending on how much you already know about this film. First, it felt so odd for Anya Taylor Joy to take second billing to the relatively unknown McKenzie, but maybe that was the point? Joy is the representation of the kind of star Ellie hopes to be, so perhaps a less experienced actress aspires to be like Joy?
It was also nice to see Diana Rigg (RIP) in what is likely her final film role. As far as any other strengths, to dive in too deep in discussion would surely somehow ruin the experience. However, i will say that this film is not what it seems to be, and consistently shifts its tone in a darker and darker direction. From Edgar Wright, the man behind all those Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedies and Baby Driver, how far he went away from comedy was quite interesting.
There’s nothing funny here, and the film quickly moves from being a somewhat aloof film into an intense psychological frenzy. This isn’t Edgar Wright repeating his same techniques over and over, it is Wright proving he can extend himself into a very different type of film.
The film works best in assaulting the audience with an increased level of paranoia and a blurred line between what is real and what is not, and then dares to ask the question “does it even matter?”
I’m sure this film isn’t for everyone, and I’m not even sure it was really for me. There are several things here that I enjoyed regarding Wright’s ability to convince his audience we are going insane, but diving in too much would spoil some of the twists.
What Doesn’t Work: Again, I’m not sure how to address specific things without ruining some of the films great twists. However, I question whether or not this film answers all of the questions it asks by opening this semi-paranormal door. We never really get an answer as to what is real, a hallucination, a premonition, or actually a Narnia like world to travel through. In an effort to relentlessly put you in a rather disoriented state like the protagonist, i think Wright left a few things unresolved.
Parallel worlds and realities can be fun, but at some point, when the blurred line seems to no longer exist, the audience still is left wondering what was real, is the main character crazy, or are we? Also, for a director whose films have been widely praised for having these incredibly specific soundtracks that really service the movie in the most unique ways, this one doesn’t have music that feels like it compliments the story, but rather just songs selected that fit well. Wright sets the bar so high with his music selection, I felt let down here.
I also never really cared about Anya Taylor Joy’s character. I was never invested in her. She’s introduced in a somewhat stealth and mysterious way, and it seems like Wright tries to keep her at a distance specifically for a reason, then all of a sudden we are expected to care about her. I couldn’t, of course, help but notice her. But in certain scenes where we are supposed to be alarmed at what happens with her character, I admit to never being invested in her character from the beginning. Perhaps, a stronger investment in her connection to Ellie, instead of a somewhat ambiguous approach would have hit some of those scenes harder?
The Blind Perspective: I’m going to have to, for the first time ever, probably knock the audio description here. And, yes, this paragraph has some actual spoilers. not huge ones, but yeah, a slight spoiler. So, this film features ghosts, and I’ve read descriptions online about how their faces actually look like an amalgamation of many faces, something the description just settles for as blurred. Sometimes, in horror movies, or in other scenes, you have to go a bit further with the detail so we can experience what the visual audience experiences. Blurred faces aren’t nearly as disturbing as faces that look assembled from many different faces.It’s a cool effect that Wright went for, and was left out of the AD.
Final Thoughts: I definitely appreciate Edgar Wright’s desire to show us a different side of his style, and this film does have some really interesting twists that keep you exhilarated until the end. I really do not want to spoil this. The twist is great, and I really did not see it coming. And I typically can pick up on hints, but this one is pretty great. That being said, I think in an effort to leave us all incredibly uncomfortable, Wright also never answers questions he dares to ask. And for some, that might be OK. But when you have a protagonist who is dealing already with emotional baggage, and suddenly is in a different timeline, where she hops back and forth, and you keep removing the line altogether so it seems that both worlds are her world at the same time, we need more answers than we got. Is she OK? Is she clinically insane/ Was there really a Narnia door/ We don’t get those answers.
Final Grade: B