Festivals, Reviews

TIFF 2022: ‘The Eternal Daughter’ — an Eerie yet Heartwarming Take on the Mother-Daughter Tale

In Joanna Hogg’s sixth feature and fourth collaboration with the great Tilda Swinton, the filmmaker takes on the familiar mother-daughter story with her own twist.

The Eternal Daughter follows Julie and her mother Rosalind (both women played by Swinton) as they take a trip to the Welsh countryside. The hotel they are staying at has a link to their family history, and Julie grabs the opportunity to learn more about her mother for a film she’s making. The nearly-empty hotel employs peculiar people like the unpleasant receptionist (Carly-Sophia Davis) and the delightful caretaker (Joseph Mydell). Throughout their stay, there is something sinister lurking about the estate that has Julie uneasy. The film succeeds in evoking that eerie feeling with its foggy setting captured by the 35mm film in Panavision. 

This ghostly take on the mother-daughter theme is a departure from Hogg’s previous work. Despite the presence of the supernatural, however, The Eternal Daughter follows themes she explored in the past, delicately touching on family dynamics, time, and memory. 

Swinton’s portrayal of the two women provides this mother-daughter duality that gives the relationship more depth. Duality in women has been an intriguing fascination in cinema with films such as Persona and Mulholland Drive. Hogg utilizes this fascination to show the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, especially the gap between their understanding of each other. Mothers and daughters might be similar in a lot of ways but with the generational gap and societal expectations, there are huge differences as well that would never fully resolve in the relationship. Swinton perfectly captures the misunderstanding between two women as they try to understand and love each other. Swinton is no stranger to playing multiple characters in films, and her flexibility in this role proves that she is one of the best actresses of our time. 

Mothers are complicated and complex people that we may never fully get to know. They have set aside who they are to serve their children, and daughters have always felt guilty for hindering their mothers from living their lives to the fullest. It is the eternal struggle that plagues us as daughters. The Eternal Daughter takes on this never-ending tale with a more sinister approach as Hogg demonstrates her storytelling prowess about the human condition. Together with Tilda Swinton, who continues to prove she is a force to be reckoned with, they deliver a heartwarming mother-daughter tale.

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