In “Resurrection”, the new film from writer-director Andrew Semans, Rebecca Hall plays a seemingly all-together single mother named Margaret. She’s a confident, poised, and successful businesswoman who is all about control. Whether its in the advice she gives to a struggling young intern or in the affair she’s having with a married co-worker. It’s most evident at home which drives her brash and headstrong 17-year-old daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) crazy.
But when a terrifying face from her past comes back to haunt her, this self-assured working mom begins to unravel. It starts at a seminar where she gets a glimpse of a man that sends her running out of the building in a panic, sprinting all the way home to check on her daughter. A couple days later she sees him again, this time in a department store while shopping with Abbie. And then again while sitting in the park. Her dread-filled panic attacks and horrific nightmares intensify with each new sighting.
We learn the man’s name is David (Tim Roth). Margaret hasn’t seen him in 22 years, but the wounds from their past relationship are still painfully fresh. While the details of that relationship are better left unshared, just know that its sinister underpinning leads to some downright disturbing revelations.
Semans does a great job growing the tension between each encounter Margaret has with David. While Roth is disgustingly great, everything in the film rides on the back of Hall who is next-level good. Every facet of her performance works, from her early scenes of seemingly shatterproof confidence to the later scenes where she desperately tries to hold it together. And we get even another side of her once she shifts from prey to predator.
Rebecca Hall playing solitary women on the brink of breakdown is nothing new. Think back to movies like the criminally underseen “Christine” and last year’s terrific “The Night House”. But she’s such a good actress that none of these performances feel one and the same. Here it’s no different. The Margaret she portrays is a complex and layered woman. Strong and determined yet carrying so much buried guilt and self-blame. The best scene in the movie captures all of these traits. It’s a seven-minute-long uncut take where the camera sits on her as she explains her unsettling history with David to a friend. It’s riveting stuff and an absolute acting masterclass.
The one place where “Resurrection” slips is in its finish. Or does it? I’m genuinely conflicted. In one sense the grisly and ghoulish final 15 minutes is devilishly unexpected, and I found myself relishing the gruesome and gory depths Semans was willing to go. On the other hand, the ambiguity-tinged final moments lead to some shaky interpretations. I’m still not certain whether I’m satisfied with the ending or frustrated by its vagueness.
Adapted from a short story by Alexander Weinstein, “Resurrection” is a bold and mostly gripping psychological thriller with an anxiety-inducing allure and a deliciously weird (yet kinda funky) finish. Andrew Semans’ expert handling of tension and pacing keeps the unnerving energy steadily growing, right up to its gonzo finish. The film also gives us yet another stellar Rebecca Hall performance, one that (once again) cements her as one the best actresses working today.