By Relic, Fair Use

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Portraying dementia on film is a difficult thing to do without using allegory to evoke empathy, and that is what is used here. Relic is a metaphor throughout, but that does not stop it being a gripping and unsettling horror drama. It is well-made, well-acted, well-written, well-directed, but it relies too heavily on its central gimmick to ascend to the heights of a great film. That being said, it’s not a bad one at all.

The narrative follows Emily Mortimer and her on-screen daughter Bella Heathcote as they go searching for Mortimer’s missing mother. They spend a few nights in her house where something unsettling lurks in the shadows until Robyn Nevin, playing Mortimer’s mother, reappears. The film then sticks with the grandmother, mother, and daughter, as they three try to cope with whatever is hiding in the dark.

Natalie Erika James directs this film from a script she co-wrote with style. It is an atmosphere-heavy portrayal, but that atmosphere is expertly crafted. A reasonably-large house seems both enormous and claustrophobic, especially when things start changing for the worse.

To explore the allegory used to present this film would be to spoil the film itself, so I won’t divulge anything about it, but it is an interesting choice of storytelling which works in context. I enjoyed it, and tonally this film is very smart, but it felt lacking in terms of depth. The central simile is spot-on for what is being described, but there is nothing else beyond that. I prefer more depth in films, not less.

Relic is worth seeing, I think, especially to understand dementia from a sufferer’s perspective, however it is not the world’s best horror film. It is good, unsettling, and dark, and I found it to be an interesting watch.

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