|Diary of a Geek Week at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2012|
The month of June may fail to bring summer to Scotland's capital, but more reliable is the Edinburgh International Film Festival, now in its 66th consecutive year. Under the guidance of new artistic director Chris Fujiwara, major premieres have included Killer Joe from director William Friedkin, who also hosted a screening of his classic The French Connection and spoke of that film and The Exorcist, the new Pixar film Brave and talks from Hollywood legend Elliott Gould and British stalwart Jim Broadbent. While there was an absence of science fiction programming on the festival this year, a generous serving of modern horror has been served up under the strand Night Moves.
[WARNING! SPOILERS beyond this point! ^KG]
Thursday 21st June - Lovely Molly – Cineworld
Introduced by director Eduardo Sánchez, one of the forces behind the global phenomenon The Blair Witch Project, his latest work utilises the "found footage" motif that marked his debut, but only to frame the story. Co-written by Sánchez and Jamie Nash, some of the hallmarks of that earlier film are present in the sense of isolation, the unexplainable noises in the night and the inevitable descent into the basement, but while this haunting does feature a walk through the darkened woods, it is more urban.
Following the death of her father, recently married Molly and Tom Reynolds move into her now empty childhood home. Molly and her sister Hannah work as cleaners in an oppressive shopping mall, Tom is a long distance driver. They are not wealthy, they are not educated or upwardly mobile, but they are good people who work hard to get by. Molly in particular struggles, both with a previous drug addiction, and the memories of her childhood, and a turbulent relationship with her father is indicated.
It starts with bangings in the night, locked doors opening, then as Tom is forced to leave Molly alone on her birthday, it escalates to a physical presence, not only in the house but tracking Molly, following her to her work. Rather than seeking help or escape, Molly retreats within herself and back to her drugs, all the time jealously watching her neighbour and her happy children.
For all that is said, good and bad, about The Blair Witch Project, it cannot be denied that the performances were both extraordinary and convincing, and here Sánchez has shown his skill with performers. As Molly, Gretchen Lodge gives a brave and raw performance in her debut film, strongly supported by Alexandra Holden as her frustrated sister, while Johnny Lewis' Tim is more distant, drifting from his wife as she becomes a stranger to him.
There are images and moments in the film that are very effective, specifically the recurring motif of horses, and like Blair Witch, the film is about what is unseen, what we carry with us, but it falls into generic modern haunting genre: while well executed, it is just an extended premise that never develops into a full story. Early scenes are not so much foreshadowing as a total eclipse of subtlety, yet in the quieter moments it excels, such as Molly's investigation of the attic, every box a memory, with no control over what will be revealed when they are opened. It's an observation rather than an analysis of Molly's breakdown: we see the symptoms, but we never enter her head, never grow to know her.
Lovely Molly is the equivalent of an "experiential" birthday present - it is not to be understood but to be felt. The narrative is sparse, Molly's conversations with her husband and her sister increasingly superficial, and the questions loom in the background, unanswered, of whether and how badly Molly and Hannah were neglected or abused by their father, whether their mother was complicit, powerless or equally a victim herself, how strongly her childhood pushed her towards the substance abuse she displays as an adult, even whether the phenomena she is now subjected to are wholly induced by her drugs.
Instead, all we can do is watch Molly's descent as she unravels, pushing away those who may have tried to help her. It's a terrible thing to watch helplessly as a loved one disintegrates, and they audience are forced to be silent witnesses as she pulls those around her into the darkness, yet the final moments when Molly confronts the shadows are the most satisfying of the film. If the intention of Sánchez was to create an experience that was deeply unsettling for the viewer, in that he has succeeded.
Lovely Molly will be released nationwide on 29th June
During his time in Edinburgh, Eduardo Sánchez was kind enough to sit down for a conversation with Geek Chocolate