Rebecca Hall Elevates Frightening Psychodrama ‘Resurrection’ [Sundance 2022]
Rebecca Hall’s fiercely complex performance is worth resurrecting again and again.
The perfectly manicured life is a dated, and oft-sexist, trope. There are countless incarnations on film and television of the high-strung, working mother. Often a nebulous executive, they work hard and love even more furiously, often refracted through a lens of keeping everything just so. Otherwise, the entire house of cards collapses. Margaret (Rebecca Hall) ostensibly embodies the archetype early on in writer-director Andrew Semans’ Resurrection. She works in some kind of biotech executive capacity, doling out relationship advice to a young intern (Angela Wong Carbone) between evening runs and delicately prepared meals for her daughter, Abbie (Grace Kaufman).
Hall, an exceptionally talented performer, makes the minutiae mysterious. There’s a stiffness to her look and visage, a recurrent look off-screen, cognizant of a threat the audience hasn’t yet seen. Before the terror arrives in earnest, Hall’s calibrated performance has the audience on edge. That edge collapses into a full-bore spiral—which Hall conceptualizes as successfully as she has in other genre fare like The Gift and The Night House—when she catches a glimpse of David (a deliciously evil Tim Roth) at a work conference.
She flees inexplicably, racing through the streets of Big City USA, before arriving home to both terrify and comfort her daughter. After repeated encounters, Margaret confronts David in a public park, demanding he leaves. At first incredulous—he claims to not recognize her—he then threatens her with narrative concealment. He rubs his belly and remarks that Benjamin, their son, is with him.
Semans wisely unveils the true nature of David’s presence, with Margaret later delivering a dense, almost mythic monologue about their time together. Nearly ten minutes in length, Hall sells it all in one, unbroken take, a testament to both the sheer force of her performance and Semans’ inclination to take Resurrection to weirder places than originally suspected. The most that can be said without risking spoilers is that, years ago, David and Margaret were together, with Margaret performing “kindnesses” for him, intense, enervating physical acts, monuments to her loyalty and love for him.
The fear is palpable. Resurrection sheds its layers to reveal a delightfully dark and oddball examination of trauma, abuse, and the stranglehold toxic partners have over the lives of others. They possess their own center of gravity, influencing events and behaviors, even remotely. Most, if not all, of Margaret’s life is predicated around David. Her parenting, utilitarian sex life, and isolation are on account of him, even 22 years later. Resisting his grip, even after decades away, proves harder than she imagined, especially with the leverage (that I wouldn’t dare spoil here) he has over her.
Hall’s performance and physicality are a tapestry of her trauma. Bruises, scars, and nightmarish, horror-tinged dreams reveal enough without explicitly saying it. Roth and Hall are sensational in their psychological cat-and-mouse, never quite going where audiences expect. It all builds to a crescendo of violence destined to polarize audiences, with an ambiguous ending providing the final whopper of cryptic, hallucinatory psychodrama.
Resurrection won’t work for everyone. While it eschews the camp almost innate in its presence (you’ll see what I mean), its narrative machinations prove a big ask. Audiences will either buy in or not, and nothing Semans does seems all that concerned with roping them back in. In other words, audiences will either get it, or they won’t. Yet, Hall’s ferocious performance—another career-best—proves inimitably compelling. She frequently elevates the material and is largely responsible for Resurrection’s wild premise working as well as it does. A psychodrama with shades of horror, Resurrection is a unique filmic experience. A surefire tone stands atop a wobbly narrative arc, and while the destination might prove less than, the hellish descent into madness is more than worth it.
Resurrection confounds as often as it chills, though Rebecca Hall’s fiercely complex performance is worth resurrecting again and again.