Starring James Cosmo, Amy Manson, Nora-Jane Noone
Directed by Adam Levins
I’ve seen both happy, and not so happy family reunions, and believe me when I tell ya, THIS reunion is unlike anything you’ve seen in a while. Mixing equal parts of rehabilitation-story and sheer twisted depravity on a relative-scale, Adam Levins’s Estranged ranks right up there with the worst parental-unit film to grace any screen, bottom line.
As the movie starts up, we see the jubilant exploits of January (Manson) and her boyfriend Callum (Simon Quartermaine) as they romp about in a cross-country jaunt, and upon a scooter they roll, seemingly oblivious to the troubles of the world around them. Only after a horrendous accident renders January nearly crippled and suffering from amnesia, does she return to a home she never realized she had, with boyfriend in tow, and reuniting with a family who are complete strangers to her now. Situated in the British countryside, the palatial manor that now (and was) home plays the backdrop to her latest bit of trauma. Right off the bat it is clear that her parents, Albert (Cosmo) and Marilyn (Eileen Nicholas) are less than pleased to see her return after up-and-leaving some six years ago. Throw a new boyfriend into the mix, along with January’s mean-spirited siblings (Noone and James Lance), and one creepy butler (Craig Conway), and we’ve got a family feud that even Jerry Springer would be proud to display for hardcore TV ratings.
The family, aside from their set-in-stone ways, and at times biting criticism, simply want the old days back where their daughter was home, and all was well…did I say well? Even though January’s memory loss has been debilitating, her inquisitive nature wins out and she attempts to find out why she opted to skate out of town a half-a-dozen years ago, and the current state of affairs has upset the immediate family even further, bringing on some unspeakable acts that wouldn’t exactly fit onto a Christmas card that you’d intend to mail to other relatives… yeesh. I suppose that I could offer the fact that ‘ve seen WORSE done to a human being in a film somewhat like this, but I believe that it’s the mental torture is what brings it all home (pun intended), and the viewer is left with a feeling that January would have been better left off sitting in a hospital room somewhere than scuttling back to convalesce in this house of horrors. The movie is simplistic, the tension is gripping, and the supporting cast all give off performances that range in between “I’d like to punch one of them” to “please don’t ever let me get stuck in a room with one of these fruit-loops.”
Cosmo takes the cake here as the tougher-than-nails dad, offering up some very quiet tones as far as dialogue is concerned, and Nicholas will chill you to the bone as dear old Mum, who looks as if she’s just power-jacked an entire bottle of tranquilizers: her eyes remain pinned on nothing, and her voice never raises over a peep – straight up chilling. Noone’s role as mousey sister, Katherine is complementary to absolute-sleazebag brother, Laurence (James Lance), who’ll make you want to bathe in Purel after watching work his repugnant charm – this guy makes a lecherous used car dealer look like a saint. All in all, every performance works in superb timing in an overall fashion to bring out the best in the story, and when the conclusion hits, you’ll be ready to scour your family tree, simply to make sure that there’s no serious fragments in its root system.