You know how when you are in the same place as your parents for a period of time, you will revert back to the dynamic that you had when you were a teenager? They will gradually step into the protective and/or controlling role and you will respond to it by becoming increasingly frustrated, pushing back and rebelling at every turn?
That is exactly where Ellie (Emma Draper) finds herself when she returns to her grandparents’ house after their deaths. Preparing for the birth of her own child, Ellie finds herself in close quarters with her doting mother, Ivy (Julia Ormond), as Ivy works to pack up the house, while also caring for her ailing husband.
From the moment Ellie arrives, we can sense the tension in this mother-daughter relationship. Ivy views her role as caretaker for Ellie, helping her along until the baby comes. Ellie puts up shields almost immediately, recoiling at her mother’s overbearing approach and fighting to keep her own space.
Their relationship is a complicated one, as we learn over the course of the film. A long-buried secret has forever affected the way these two women interact with one another. It is a secret that has laid festering for decades, wrapped in lies and guilt. Now once again faced with it, Ellie pushes to uncover the truth, while Ivy tries to convince her to leave the past in the past. The push and pull surrounding this secret impacts an already strained relationship, leading Ivy to try harder and harder to maintain control and Ellie to constantly have to put up defenses.
The performances from these two actresses are fantastic. You can cut the tension with a knife. And that’s just in the first scene. 90 minutes later, you will need a chainsaw. Ivy is the kind of controlling mother who thinks the tighter hold she has on Ellie, the safer she will be. Every little thing that Ellie does is questioned, picked apart, and put back together. Ormond conveys this nervous yet immovable energy flawlessly. Draper is the perfect counterpoint, responding to Ivy with a mixture of friction and weary acceptance. This relationship hasn’t been healthy in years, and having both women under the same roof creates a time bomb.
Despite a few moments that feel a little rushed, Jake Mahaffy’s film comes together nicely. He marries the character tension with the overall haunted feeling of this family’s past and allows the two to play out together. The result is something of a gothic story of an unresolved tragedy, fed by the ongoing conflict of a family unable to fully move on. Secrets cannot be buried forever, and time will not erase the truth.
Movie Score: 4/5
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