What makes Margaret run? In the darkly gripping, engagingly absurd psychological thriller “Resurrection,” she races up and down the city streets, her limbs pumping like pistons, a furious leap with each accelerated step. It’s her morning workout routine, but her demonic pace and half-panic, half-determined expression suggest otherwise; Margaret, played by the always brilliant Rebecca Hall, doesn’t even seem to run for it a way of something. That will literally happen one day at work when something unsettling catches her attention, causing her to flee and thrash about, desperately trying to outrun a past that finally seems to have caught up with her.
Writer-director Andrew Semans (“Nancy, Please”) keeps his heroine in his camera’s sights, even when she doesn’t make it easy for herself. When we first meet her, Margaret seems calmly in control of herself and her surroundings, from her swanky high-rise apartment to the glass boardroom where she works. This control is expressed in ways that might almost be dismissed as a standard “tightly wound” theme: in the physically intense but emotionless sex she has with a married colleague (Michael Esper); in the sternly supportive advice she gives to an intern (Angela Wong Carbone) who is in a bad relationship; and most importantly, she’s watching her own college daughter, Abbie (an amazing Grace Kaufman).
Margaret and Abbie’s well-observed bond – brimming with mutual affection even as the latter increasingly chafes under the former’s tight reins – is one of the best things about Resurrection. When strange things happen to Abbie – a strange discovery, a bike accident – we naturally share Margaret’s parental concern. But Abbie, in turn, gives us a logical point of view about Margaret, looking at her mother first with mild desperation and then with rapidly increasing concern. And what ultimately gives this film its enduring tension is the extent to which it convinces us to completely abandon logic and get on Margaret’s wavelength, even as her words and actions defy understanding. When the camera follows her down an office corridor or across a park yard, it almost seems to be pulling her – or being pulled through She? – into the depths of a menacing new world.
Or maybe an old one. The source of Margaret’s fears, soon revealed, is a man named David (an inescapably sinister Tim Roth) whom she spots in public places – at a work conference, in a department store – and whom she eventually rouses to confront: “Go away.” , she murmurs, all that steely assertiveness suddenly gone from her voice. For his part, David initially claims not to know her, but within moments casually admits that he does. These two have a certain history, one that takes time to unravel itself, though both actors are excellent at suggesting the toxic core dynamic through expressions and intonation: Hall with downward gazes and mumbled expletives, Roth with the voice of a cult leader with a suggestive, pleasantly played voice.
In time, the whole truth will pour out, in a monologue Margaret holds for minutes in front of an unblinking camera that seems to have finally managed to nail her. The details of the backstory are grisly, horrific, and borderline laughable, and without Hall’s unflappably likeable, fiercely internalized performance, laughter would indeed have been the appropriate response. But Hall’s unparalleled ability to get under the skin of a protagonist (not to mention yours) previously starred in biographical drama Christine and supernatural horror film The Night House. forces us to take Margaret seriously. So is the filmmaking, whose every strategy—the long takes and gray to somber tones of Wyatt Garfield’s cinematography, the piercing arpeggios of Jim Williams’ score—is a formal complement to Hall’s tics and gestures.
There’s more at work here than just Hall’s unsurprising command of exposed nerves; Both she and Semans, who bang unnervingly dissonant chords at every turn, seem to work in near-perfect harmony. Which isn’t to say that the film itself is nearly perfect. Like Alex Garland’s recent, more demonstratively off-kilter “Men,” with which it would make a comfortably trembling feminist horror double bill, “Resurrection” can’t quite shake the feeling of a genre picture wrapped around a carefully crafted thesis, a , who is sometimes overly concerned with making sure we don’t miss her #MeToo-era resonance or feminist horror.
Both films draw inspiration, at least in their uncompromising closing passages, from the intense physical horror of filmmakers like David Cronenberg. Both, too, cultivate an ambiguity of intent and meaning, although what “Resurrection” has to say about male gaslighting, maternal guilt, female trauma and the return of the repressed is ultimately clear enough. Perhaps a deviled mind pushed far enough has ways of forging its own fragile reality. A seemingly resting mind might actually still be running faster than ever.
Duration: 1 hour, 43 minutes
To play: Lammle Glendale; Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in downtown Los Angeles; Lammle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Harkins Theater 18 Chino Hills; Available August 5th on streaming platforms
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-08-01/resurrection-movie-rebecca-hall Rebecca Hall breathes life into creepy ‘Resurrection’