amulet | romola garai | carl juri | alec secareanu | imelda staunton | monster | creature | demon | demons | curse | haunted | haunted house | mystery | military | united kingdom | united arab emirates | anah ruddin | angeliki papoulia | elowen harris | joey akubeze
Director: Romola Garai
Writer: Romola Garai
Starring: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu and Imelda Staunton
This was a movie that I heard about through podcasts. There were mixed reviews from what I heard. I was in the mood for a movie that might have social commentary and this seemed to fit the bill.
Synopsis: an ex-soldier, living homeless in London, is offered a place to stay at a decaying house inhabited by a young woman and her dying mother. As he starts to fall for her, he cannot ignore his suspicion that something sinister is going on.
For the story, we're following it in two different time periods. The earlier one is when Tomas (Alec Secareanu) is a soldier. He is tasked to man a gate that is in the middle of the woods. He is alone in doing so and this causes him to be lonely which in turn causes him to descend a bit into madness. He does what he can to create some normalcy for his life. One day he is digging in the woods and discovers a trinket. It looks like a woman with an odd thing behind her head. He keeps this amulet. Not too long after a woman runs to his post and she falls. He takes her back to his cabin to nurse her back.
Then the story in the present has Tomas being homeless. Due to his nightmares, he tapes his hands together. He is saving up his money by doing undocumented construction work. Things take a turn when the place he's staying burns down. He gets away, but passes out. He is saved by a Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton). He wakes up in a hospital and then seeks her out afterwards. He declines any more of her help, recovering his items. He learns that there was no money on him when she found him though. Being down, he agrees to go with her for help.
This brings him to the house where Magda (Carla Juri) lives. She is there with her mother who is sick and dying in the attic. The house is in disrepair so he if he is willing to help fix it, she will cook and he will have a place to stay. He at first declines as he thinks that Magda doesn't want to him to stay there. When he sees that she has a bite mark on her, he changes his mind.
Things are a bit rocky at first. He is trying to fix the toilet, but Magda stops him. The more time they spend together, the closer they become. He needs to face his demons, as he feels he needs to be punished for what he’s done. Something happened between him and the woman he 'saved' while a soldier. There are also demons he needs to face within his house as he learns the truth of Magda, her mother and Sister Claire.
That is where I'm going to leave my recap of the movie, as I feel that gets you up to speed for me to shift over to what I thought about this. Where I want to start is this character of Tomas. We start by seeing him in this post that looks extremely boring and taxing on the mind if you aren't strong. The more we learn, the more interesting this becomes. Tomas is a philosophy student in college. He was given this post to due to his mother as it kept him from the front lines. Due to his loneliness, he did a horrific thing. He feels that he needs to be punished. It makes him susceptible to Sister Claire and what she is offering by helping Magda. This would free her from her 'mother'.
I think what I should go to next would be the amulet he finds in the woods. I don't understand why he was digging and in turn, finding it. It just feels convenient. I'm fine with that aspect of him discovering it though. That works for me. It looks to be an artifact from a religion older than Christianity, which reminds me of things like The Exorcist. Since this has him needing to find faith with dealing with Sister Claire and what she is proposing, it makes the reveal tick a box for me.
What I didn't necessarily care for though is that the movie is a slow burn. We get a lot of cool imaginary and what not. My problem though is that I feel I needed a bit more explanation to things that we're getting. This decides to stick with atmosphere and to stay vague. That can be a good thing, but I personally needed just a bit more for it to fully come together personally.
That is not to say that we don't get good aspects still. I think that the acting is solid across the board. Juri is good as this woman that is paying her penance for the 'love' and care that her 'mother' was giving to her. She tells us that her mother was beautiful and could have left her at any time. Instead, she stayed and gave up her life to raise her. She is now forced to do the same. This is the normal circle of life. Secareanu is good with this character having the troubled past that he does. It makes him our hero and someone that we like at first. The more we learn though, the more it makes us change. I like having complicated leads. Staunton is great for the role she is in as well. I do feel that the poster I saw does give things away, but I'm not going to diminish her performance. I would also say the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
Next would be the effects. This movie is lighter here until late. There are these creepy bat creatures we get to see a few times. Those looked to be done practical and I was on board for that. The blood looks good. We get interesting visuals that make us question things that we're seeing. Near the end, things go wild and that is where I want just more if I'm honest. They look good and creepy. I must give credit to cinematography as well. This is shot well and the framing helps to build atmosphere.
The last thing that I'm going to go over would be the soundtrack. I think this is one of the best parts of the movie hands down. They use a few different types of music that are brooding and creepy. That works for me. Aside from this, we're getting creature noises that are coming from the walls and ceilings. It could be animals at times, but it makes me nervous as to what I'm going to see. Together, this is one of the best parts of the movie in my opinion.
In conclusion, I do feel that this movie has good aspects. I enjoy the concepts that they are playing with here with religion and the potential of older entities that are powerful. The acting helps to flesh out the characters to where they start, build and end up. I think the effects work well there, along with the cinematography and the creepy use of the soundtrack/sound design. If I have an issue, for the runtime we get I think a bit more could have been explained to get me completely on board. I still that this is an above average movie that is exploring some interesting ideas. I’d recommend giving it a viewing if you like these aspects.
My Rating: 7 out of 10