The Last Thing Mary Saw
the last thing mary saw | edoardo vitaletti | stefanie scott | daniel pearce | philip hoffman | supernatural | drama | thriller | isabelle fuhrman | curse | elijah rayman | judith roberts | stephen lee anderson | michael laurence | carolyn mccormick | religion | period piece
Film: The Last Thing Mary Saw
Director: Edoardo Vitaletti
Writer: Edoardo Vitaletti
Starring: Stefanie Scott, Isabelle Fuhrman and Daniel Pearce
This is a movie that I was turned on to via social media and the podcast circles that I’m a part of. I heard some good things about it so I made sure it went on a list of movies getting their wide release in 2022. This takes place winter of 1843. A young woman is under investigation following the mysterious death of her family’s matriarch. Her recollection of the events shed new light on the ageless forces behind the tragedy.
We start this movie with a line from John Calvin telling, “All events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God”. It then shifts to Mary (Stefanie Scott). She pulls out a book and turns to a story called Old Lady of Bethabara. It also sets up that we are in Southold, New York in 1843. Mary is taken in by the police and gets interrogated. The one in charge is played by Daniel Pearce. He debates with another officer about Mary. The other officer is claiming religion for his reasons and claims the man in charge has clouded judgement. They are nervous to listen to her story, but they allow her to tell it. There is a test for her to recite the Lord’s Prayer first, which she does.
The movie is then told in three chapters, each one the name of a story from this book we saw in the beginning. The first is Temple of Earthly Desires, the second is A Monstrous Birth with the last one being Old Lady of Bethabara. Mary is the daughter in this family. Her parents are concerned that she is in love with the servant, Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman). The matriarch, Judith Roberts, is consulted on what they should do. Mary’s parents are Randolph (Michael Laurence) and his wife is Agnes (Carolyn McCormick). They also have a son, Matthew (Elijah Rayman). The grandmother decides to call in her other son, Eustace (Tommy Buck), to see if he will take Eleanor. He brings his wife, Ann (Dawn McGee) and his son who is played by Shane Coffey.
Eustace doesn’t want to allow Eleanor into his house. He believes that the corruption runs too deep. He needs to know that it has been eliminated completely first. It is here that we see the punishments from this family are harsh. The guard of the land, Theodore (P.J. Sosko), had his leg broken for trying to flee. It didn’t heal properly so he has a limp. Mary and Eleanor are forced to kneel in rice and recite prayers. Eleanor cannot do this as she doesn’t know them. This concerns the family and they think it explains things.
Despite knowing the dangers of their forbidden love, the two women continue to see each other. They worry about who is watching them. Matthew is a sneak and one of their concerns. There is also Eustace’s son. They don’t know who they can trust. Things take a darker turn when Theodore offers Eleanor a way of getting back at those that look to hurt them.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie. Where I’m going to start is going a bit deeper than what I did. My first thoughts for this movie were that we were getting witch trials. Being that Mary and Eleanor are in love, which is one thing that they could be accused. When looking back at the date, this is much later timewise. We had a bit more knowledge. Despite them not being considered witches, they still are highly religion and being a lesbian was not allowed. Mary’s family are devoutly religious. They are Old Testament believers for sure.
To go deeper into this forbidden relationship, I want to use this book. It is interesting that early on we learn that the book belonged to Randolph. It went missing. He is concerned that it is his fault that Mary is having the desires that she is. What I find interesting here is that this sentiment is still used today. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people complaining today about watching certain things could alter children’s beliefs. An example is seeing certain things could make them gay. I’m a firm believer in science so I don’t buy into this sentiment. Going along with this idea, it is in line with censorship, which I’m against. Do I believe some people should not watch things until a certain time in their life or that some people can’t ever handle some things? For sure, but I don’t think that is the government’s job. That is the parents’ job to know what their children can see or cannot.
I will now get off my soapbox, I want to stick with breaking down the book. I thought it was cool that each chapter is based off a different story from it. From my understanding, the stories are playing out with the events we are seeing. They are mirrors. I also find that the themes and what the stories are about are in line with what the movie is conveying. I did enjoy this.
Where I’ll shift next then would be the family themselves. Being that their Old Testament, they are harsh in what they do. Having a daughter be a lesbian is something that would mortify them. They think that they can force her to pray in a way that causes pain to get her to change her mind. All this is doing is making our main character go to greater lengths like she does in the end of this movie. The same can be said for Eleanor and Theodore as well. This idea of not knowing who you can trust makes the tension even greater here as well.
Now the last thing before I move away from the story is the idea that this could be supernatural. From the synopsis, we know that the matriarch dies. She might not actually be dead though. We see at her wake, one of her fingers is twitching. It also turns black. I’ve seen this idea recently in a different movie, which was interesting. This family has an odd custom that they must take a vow of silence for one day for the wake, yet someone calls out to a person, portrayed by Rory Culkin, for business. Theodore tries to get him to leave, knowing this family’s custom. This man becomes an intruder and has a scene that pushes Eleanor even farther. I like that the intruder is Culkin, who has grown into a great actor in my opinion. To round out this idea, is the matriarch dead? Or is she playing this way? The movie leaves it up to us, at least I think so, but I believe it is supernatural in the end. Even more so with seeing the last image of the movie.
That should be enough for the story so I’ll take this to the acting. I think that Scott and Fuhrman are great as this couple that have a forbidden love. They are faced with different decisions that could kill them. Despite that, they are determined to be together and the tension is driven from that. I thought that Roberts was creepy as the matriarch. Laurence, McCormick, Buck and McGee are good as all of the parents. I like that we don’t know if we can trust Rayman’s character while having the villainous cousin played by Coffey. I also like Culkin in his minor role along with Pearce, Sosko and the rest of the cast.
Then the last bits would be the cinematography, effects and the soundtrack. For the former, I think this shot beautifully. There is a bleakness to what we are seeing. It also feels like the era which is good. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects, but they went practical with as much as they could. There are some things that made me cringe, like with a splinter. These are done well and adds a creepy factor, especially with the matriarch. Other than that, I believe the soundtrack fit the movie for what was needed. The reciting of prayer while listening to labored breathing of fighting through pain adds a solid layer to the tension.
So then in conclusion here, this is a solid movie that I’m glad I got to see for the year. I think that we are in an interesting time for this to take place. The idea of forbidden love is something that is still relevant today. Setting in a time though with this hyper religious family is good. I thought that the acting was solid to bring the characters to life. Being that there is a supernatural or a normal way of looking at the events is good. The effects and cinematography are both used well. The soundtrack also fit for what was needed. For me, this is a good movie. I’m putting this on a list to revisit before the end of the year as well.
My Rating: 8 out of 10