Starring Jeffrey Charles Richards, Emily Price, Lowri Watts-Joyce, Nicholas Ball
Directed by Richard John Taylor
Muse is a difficult film to describe, mainly because it goes out of its way to make the viewer question the reality of the world it presents to them. You’ll be asking a lot of questions by the time the end credits roll, so this is definitely a film which will stay on your mind for years to come.
Harry is a successful writer who, while grieving the loss of his daughter Ethel, decides to spend time in a rural country house deep in the South of France. While he’s there, he meets a young woman named Elouise who bears an incredible resemblance to his recently deceased daughter, something he gradually finds too much to bear.
There’s not much else which can be said about the plot because, truth be told, not much else happens. Harry and Elouise bond and begin to develop a deep friendship, while her resemblance to Elouise slowly starts to drive Harry insane. The stunning natural beauty of the South of France creates a stark contrast with the darkness in Harry’s mind, helping to make this a story which will truly get under your skin (and that’s meant as a compliment).
Although you haven’t heard his name before, Jeffrey Charles Richards is an actor who deserves to be on the radar. While he’s probably too old to become the next big thing in Hollywood, his impressive performance in Muse should help him maintain a steady supply of roles after the film hits the festival circuit. As a writer struggling to accept the loss of his daughter while also slowly losing his grip on reality, Richards delivers a performance which is both stirring and heartbreaking, with the use of long interrupted shots at times making you feel like you are staring into his soul. When he is told of his daughter’s death, Harry responds by saying that he had a cop friend who referred to delivering news of death to a family as a ‘deathogram’. You won’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Also fantastic in her feature debut was Emily Price as Ethel/Elouise, presenting a portrait of a young woman who begins to develop a deep connection with Harry, but may also be hiding her own inner demons. Elouise dreams of being an actress and has youth and talent on her side, but as Harry tells her, “youth is wasted on the young.”
The majority of Muse takes place within Harry’s large house and the surrounding gardens, so by limiting how much we see of the real world, director Richard John Taylor effortlessly creates a sense of claustrophobia, which works to strengthen the feelings of desperation and isolation which Harry is clearly experiencing. As mentioned above, Taylor also makes use of long, uninterrupted handheld shots which get so shaky at times that you’ll probably start to feel seasick. The soundtrack, which mostly consists of operatic singing in a language you won’t understand, makes Muse almost seem like an avant-garde picture, which may be what Taylor was going for.
But either way, this is definitely a slow burning and largely uneventful story, which may turn off those who prefer a high body count in their horror, but if you have enough patience to get to the end, you’ll find Muse to be one of the most powerful and thought-provoking horror films in recent memory. Definitely be sure to catch this at the first available opportunity.
It may be too slow for some, but those with enough patience will find Muse to be one of the most emotional and thought-provoking horror films in recent years.