After Rebecca Hall’s stunning directorial debut Passing premiered at Sundance last year, she is back at the festival, starring in Andrew Semans’ Resurrection. Hall plays Margaret, a career-driven woman and mollycoddling single mother of teenage Abbie (Grace Kaufman). Behind a seemingly pristine life, Margaret’s façade starts to crack when she sees a man from her past, David (Tim Roth), at a conference.
Semans carefully sets up Margaret’s dark past. He utilizes Roth’s chilling presence in establishing the first act of a psychological thriller centering on a woman slowly descending into madness. The scene where Margaret confronts David in a public place reminded me of Steven Soderbergh’s Unsane. We feel Margaret’s frustrations as she is dismissed as hysterical and is gaslighted. The film is going down the same path as the Soderbergh thriller while Margaret slowly plunges back into her dark past of paranoia and instability. She confides in Gwyn (Angela Wong Carbone), an intern she mentors, and gives a nearly eight-minute monologue that unfolds her past with David. This very scene has become the talk of the fest as Hall gives an effectively frightening performance—but sadly her performance could not save this mess as the story progresses.
Without giving away too much, the idea for the film has potential, but the execution left it incoherent and weak. Though it does well in deceiving the viewer into thinking this is a typical psychological horror. The transition from Margaret’s restraint to recklessness was masterfully done, and the performances of Hall and Roth, who gave such cult leader vibes, will keep you glued in waiting where it will take you. Survivor’s guilt and trauma were handled quite well in the film, and the conclusion to Margaret’s story is satisfying. This, however, is all muddled through a poorly structured screenplay.
Resurrection will indeed have a divided audience. It is effective in scaring and deceiving its viewers, but it overextends to the point of weariness. All the praises that Hall is receiving in its current festival run are well-deserved and the film is worth watching just for her performance alone, but there is no telling whether you will hate it or not.