Rebecca Hall in ‘Resurrection’: Film Review | Sundance 2022 – Hollywood Reporter

January 23, 2022
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The actress stars alongside Tim Roth in Andrew Semans’ psychological thriller about trauma, grief and madness.
By Caryn James
A year ago at Sundance, Rebecca Hall proved herself to be an accomplished filmmaker with the premiere of the eloquent drama Passing, her first feature as director. Now she is back at the festival as the star of Resurrection, a reminder of how bold and powerful she is as an actress. Writer and director Andrew Semans puts Hall in every scene of this modest but effective thriller, and she comes through with a stunning, charismatic performance as Margaret, a woman whose traumatic past disrupts the calm life she has built as a successful businesswoman and single mother of a college-age daughter.

In a scene nearly halfway through the film, Hall looks into the camera, her face illuminated in close-up against a deep black background. She delivers an eight-minute monologue — ostensibly to a colleague who is off-camera, but really to the audience — describing in detail the terrible events she endured 22 years before, a life-changing experience even worse than what we might have imagined it to be. The scene is expository and theatrical, an approach you wouldn’t expect to work on screen, but Hall makes it captivating.

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Resurrection

The Bottom Line Sharp and creepy.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone

Writer-director: Andrew Semans

1 hour 43 minutes

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone
Writer-director: Andrew Semans
That scene also displays how smartly Semans takes risks with genre elements, pushing them to the edge of cliche without crossing over. Few of them are as theatrical as Margaret’s revelation. But as her life and sanity begin to fall apart, Semans playfully borrows from myriad stalker films and even edges toward a Sixth Sense element of the supernatural. The narrative sticks to Margaret’s point of view, which keeps us constantly off-guard and guessing right through to the bloody, horror-tinged end.
The buildup is a bit too slow, as the film establishes Margaret’s character and her world in upstate New York. With a neat bob of hair and a grey business suit, she is the image of corporate efficiency, although more tightly wound than most. In an opening scene that seems to telegraph the future, or might just be a red herring, she harshly advises a younger colleague to dump the controlling boyfriend she has been seeing.
The plot kicks in when Margaret attends a biotech conference, looks across the room and spots a man (Roth) whose presence makes her start to tremble and run from the building in a panic. He is, of course, the man from her past, David, who seems to be stalking her. He lurks in a big box store where she is shopping with her daughter. Another day he is suspiciously sitting on a park bench near her. When she confronts him, his response ramps up the tension and the questions about what might have happened. The screenplay cleverly gives us partial answers to some of the mysteries as we go along, without sacrificing any of the suspense.

Roth makes David slightly desiccated, placid on the surface but also sinister and unhinged — unless Margaret herself is the unhinged person, who only imagines that he is threatening to harm her daughter, Abbie. Determined to protect her child, Margaret reassures her, “Don’t be scared,” but the only thing frightening Abbie is her mother’s unexplained, overbearing anxiety. While maintaining  Margaret’s rigid exterior, Hall also makes her increasingly wild-eyed. Grace Kaufman is completely natural as Abbie, who becomes concerned about her mother’s state of mind as the guilt, grief and distress of the past returns.
Semans has surrounded himself with a first-rate off-camera team. Resurrection looks fantastic: Wyatt Garfield’s cinematography and Anna Kathleen’s production design create a gleaming, brightly lit world that is far from the dark cliches of most thrillers. Hall is often reflected in mirrors, even in the big box store. She takes runs in sparkling clear sunlight, and lives in a modern, white-walled apartment that reflects the sharp, clean lines of the new life she has tried to create. And when she does begin to skulk around in the dark — because what’s a thriller without that? — shafts of brilliant light create dazzling contrasts.
Resurrection is Semans’ second feature. His first, the deft Nancy, Please (2012), was another story of twisted psychology, in which the hero, furious at a belligerent former roommate, is slowly revealed to be an emotional nightmare himself.  Semans’ astute revamping of genres and confident direction were apparent from the start.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (Premieres)
Production companies: Square Peg, Secret Engine
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tim Roth, Grace Kaufman, Michael Esper, Angela Wong Carbone
Writer-Director: Andrew Semans
Producers: Tory Lenosky, Alex Scharfman, Drew Houpt, Lars Knudsen, Tim Headington, Lia Buman
Exective Producers: Lucas Joaquin, Michael M. McGuire
Director of Photography: Wyatt Garfield
Production Designer: Anna Kathleen
Costume Designer: Alexis Forte
Editor: Ron Dulin
Music: Jim Williams
Casting Director: Jessica Kelly
Sales: Secret Engine
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