05/18/2021 06:48

Film: Separation

Year: 2021

Director: William Brent Bell

Writer: Nick Amadeus and Josh Braun

Starring: Madeline Brewer, Rupert Friend and Brian Cox



This is a movie that I’ll be honest; I didn’t hear anything about and only learned of it looking at the local listings at the movie theaters around me. I saw this was horror and that it featured Rupert Friend as well as Brian Cox. I do enjoy both of these actors. I was in to see it after that and then saw some people on social media bringing it up. To get into this, the synopsis is a young girl finds solace in her artist father and the ghost haunting their house.

I will admit that there was a bit of a spoiler that I didn’t like in the synopsis on the Internet Movie Database, so I did change it a bit. We start this off though with Jeff (Friend) who is a struggling artist. It appears that back in the day, he created a comic book line of some creepy looking characters that have a lot of basis in puppets. Due to some differences, it didn’t have as much success and died out. He is now unemployed. This caused his wife of Maggie (Mamie Gummer) to have to go work for her father to make ends meet. This also causes strife at home. What is interesting here is that she hired a babysitter of Samantha (Madeline Brewer) who is into comics and taking more of a liking to Jeff than watching the daughter of Jenny (Violet McGraw). Things come to a head when Maggie comes home right as Jenny falls in the attic, hitting her head. This causes Maggie to leave with Jenny.

The stress of their situation is too much for Maggie. She seeks out the aid of her father, Rivers (Cox), who is a lawyer. Maggie wants a divorce and Jeff’s situation puts him at a disadvantage. He cannot afford to fight her as she wants full custody of Jenny and looking to move to Seattle for work. Jeff thinks things are looking up when he runs into a college friend of Connor (Eric T. Miller) at a coffee shop when he has time with Jenny. Connor runs his own comic book label. Jeff is at the wrong place for to meet with Maggie, which was a good to reinforce that he doesn’t always listen. Things take a turn when Maggie is killed in a hit and run accident.

Jeff, who is established as a bit of a flake, now has to fully take care of their daughter. His problems aren’t solved though. Rivers is now seeking custody of Jenny, who is struggling to deal with the death of her mother. To make matters worse, there could be an entity haunting the house, taking on a similar look to the creatures Jeff created in his comics. Is there really something here or a more logical explanation to everything?

I feel that is enough to get you up to speed with the story of this movie. Where I want to start is I really enjoyed the set up. We establish this family and everything we really need to know with them. Jeff is wrapped up in himself. He is clinging to the past and now that he’s older, he is lost. I could tell that Samantha was into him and Maggie just feels like a tired woman who is just done with everything. The real victim in all of this is Jenny. I feel this is actually an interesting story in that Jeff loves her and will do whatever he can for her, but he still needs to mature. Maggie doesn’t believe he ever will and she works too much so she isn’t around. Samantha also sees this as an in as well. What is interesting is that this is a classic broken home before the separation and potential divorce, which makes what I will go into next more feasible, the haunting.

What I find intriguing is the introduction of the elements from Jeff’s original comic book line before we get the haunting. The toys are puppet based and I’ll be honest, creepy to me. I like that Jenny has grown up with them, so it doesn’t bother her. This is an interesting correlation for myself as well as many horror fans that have grown up with the genre so we don’t see it like those that aren’t as familiar do. This also allows an interesting scene with Jeff wanting Jenny to ‘befriend’ the scary monster that is bothering her. It leads down a path though that causes problems.

To actually get to the haunting now, I like that they don’t actually start until what happens to Maggie. It is also a gradual thing as well. First it is starting with a painting mysteriously burning where it is only affecting Jeff’s face. It then progresses, which is good for a movie like this. We need that slow build. I’ve said that I like incorporating Jeff’s comic book characters into it, as that’s feels like what they were made for. This actually seems to have a gothic feel as well. The ghost might not be all that bad. It isn’t trying to hurt Jenny, but it wants to hurt Jeff and others. I enjoy it as we normally think the supernatural element these days is the villain, when in the early days of the ghost story, it was more of a guiding force to the truth.

I do have to shift over to a negative here though. As I said that I did like the slow build with the haunting, this movie runs too long. There is a bit too much that I didn’t care about that was given to us. Looking back on quite a bit of it, I understand why. We needed to establish certain things so it makes sense later. There was just a long stretch where I lost my interest. I also don’t know if the payoff was enough for me with the journey the movie was trying to take me on. There is also the use of a couple dream sequences that I disliked. It was done for scares and adds really nothing to the overall product in my opinion.

To get back to positives, I will go to the acting. It was interesting to see Friend here as our lead, since I know him originally from the TV show Homeland. He was one of my favorite characters there, so it is interesting to see him in a different role here. I thought he worked as this struggling father. Cox is always great as his ruthless older father-in-law. Brewer was interesting as I predicted her interest in Jeff from the opening scene. I thought she did well for where her character ended up. For me though, I had guessed it when something gets brought up and I was checked out by then. Aside from that, I thought Gummer was good as the overworked, tired mother along with McGraw as the daughter. Miller plays a character I enjoyed and I also like Simon Quarterman as Alan who is our supernatural ‘expert’. The cast is solid overall in my opinion.

Then really the last thing I wanted to go into would be the effects. First I have to give credit to this guy who took on one of the puppet characters in humanish form. That was an image I saw before seeing the movie and it was creepy. There is CGI there to enhance, but it was probably the scariest part of the movie for me. I’d say from there that all of the practical effects were good. The CGI I can be forgiving for. Being that there is a comic book element to the movie, there is this effect that is done where the world will go red and it makes sense at the climax. I really thought the effects were pretty well done overall and the cinematography was solid as well.

So then in conclusion here, I thought this movie has an interesting set up. The modern gothic take on the ghost story is something that when done right works. Incorporating the comic book elements as well is interesting. There is a bit lacking with the story though and it runs too long for me. What I will say though is the acting and the effects were pretty solid. The soundtrack fit for what was needed, I had no issues there. This movie though just seemed to miss the mark for me a bit. I’d still say this is over average for me.


My Rating: 6 out of 10