Written & Directed by: Kate & Laura Mulleavy
Run Time: 1h 40min
Genre: Drama, Thriller
2 ½ Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Kirstin Dunst has been working a lot lately, most recently in the remake of the film The Beguiled and her presence is very comforting. She’s showing range with the characters she’s picking… she’s not a little girl anymore. With this role, she’s a wee bit of a killer. She plays Theresa, and also plays Executive Producer to the film itself. Theresa is married to Nick (Cole), who works as a day laborer cutting down trees not far from home. They live in an area surrounded by trees, live and dead ones, in a tiny home where they’ve also housed her very sick mother. She talks to her mother about the pain she endures, which is making them both miserable. Knowing a lot about extracts, Theresa decides to roll her a joint. The joint has been laced with a few drops of something that will help the pain go away… forever. She promises her mother a painless release. Her mother smokes the joint and drifts away. Having been incredibly close to her, Theresa finds it difficult to move on. She does things anyone might do after the death of their mother. She wears her clothes, looks in the mirror to find her mother inside of her and lays on the bed where she took her last breath.
She starts to smoke some of the special herb herself and here is where the movie turns into a nightmare for her. Up until now, it has been a beautiful yet heartbreaking story of loss with fascinating cinematography by Peter Flinckenberg. If you don’t like movies that are too alive and filled with motion, this could bother you some but the old-fashioned look they were going for, using filters and interesting fades, makes the film much more appealing during the trips Theresa takes in her mind. She ends up there often and we see less and less of a truly clear picture. The score was equally as engaging if not more so. It was done by veteran Jake Jackson who has worked on such films as Love Actually, Lord of the Rings: Two Towers, The Road and Hell or High Water to name but a few. These two artists enhance the splendor of watching Theresa’s struggle as she moves between being lucid and delusional.
She doesn’t spend much time with her husband anymore which isn’t helping her with her loneliness. She starts working again at a friend, Keith’s (Asbaek), marijuana dispensary to feel a part of this world and to re-connect with life in general. Store regular, Johnny (Kilmer) comes into the store and they hang out at a party. This doesn’t lift her grief as she’d like so she retreats back into her habit of smoking her magic elixir. When she does this, she isn’t sure of what it’s doing to her or what she’s doing to herself while under its influence. She begins to rely on it and smokes so often that she’s starting to blend in with her surroundings and is barely able to recognize herself anymore. She doesn’t smile and walks around almost completely lifeless. Ed, an older gentleman who’s suffering from an unknown illness, comes into the store. Per Keith’s instruction, she gives him what was given to her mother. Somehow, the batches are mixed and it’s not Ed that gets the special mix. Johnny does. What has she done? Not only is she torturing herself over this question, but Keith loses his mind and unleashes a ferocity on her she’s unable to handle.
The film gets rather twisted, as much as she is internally. It’s very delicate in the way it treats her mother and Theresa’s clarity of mind to help her kill herself, but she is unable to handle her decision later and the filmmakers seem to somewhat lose the audience. Again, Theresa walks amongst live trees but is surrounded by dead ones. She doesn’t like trees being chopped down as they are alive and have the right to live. She killed her mother. She has a relationship with nature, loves it but is almost incapable of loving anything else. The movie draws from her pain and her desire to love and be loved; to be like her mother but the way it gets you to the end credits is slow moving and sometimes tiring. A thrilling moment in the end when Theresa balances nature and rights things. How we get to this point is by seemingly taking a long path through a thick brush and though you may enjoy the harmony of the music, editing and cinematography working together to create this dream state… you might not be able to get to the clearing. If you’re a fan of the more ornamental, dramatic and eerily mysterious pictures, this is for you. If a movie that decreases in its pacing and uses little dialogue that often acts more like a 3D piece of art than a film distracts you from your enjoyment of the said film, it isn’t. Dunst and the rest of the cast are wonderful in their roles but will do little to help when the pacing gets you yawning.