After the alleged suicide of her priest brother, Grace travels to the remote Scottish convent where he fell to his death. Distrusting the Church’s account, she uncovers murder, sacrilege and a disturbing truth about herself.
Christopher Smith’s “Consecration” inspired me to do something I almost never do – as soon as I finished it, I immediately watched it again. My time is limited and so many movies only need one viewing to reveal all they hold or lack. However, “Consecration” is a film that twists about in your mind, its narrative constructed in such a way that it doubles back on itself throughout, revealing greater meaning when seen through its ever-shifting lens. Set among the Scottish Highlands, Smith utilizes its dour environment and Middle Age ruins to marvelous effect, creating an overarching sense of historic dread, as if this location has been cursed for time immemorial, that nothing good ever has or ever will on this blighted expanse. And while the film requires a bit of patience and close attention, the payoff makes it well worth your time, the film’s final five minutes providing one startling revelation after another.
Jena Malone – giving her finest performance and nailing a spot-on English accent – is Grace, a London-based ophthalmologist whose world is upended when she receives news that her brother Michael (Stefan Cennydd) has been found dead near a convent in Scotland. A great many questions surround this event as a priest was also found dead, the possibility that a murder-suicide occurred being bandied about. Going to investigate on her own, Grace runs up again one dead end after another. Her questions to the Mother Superior (Janet Suzman) are brushed aside, though Father Romero (Danny Huston) sent from the Vatican to investigate the incident, appears cooperative, at least on the surface.
It becomes obvious that nothing is as it seems as the more clues Grace uncovers concerning her brother and the convent’s history, the further she is from getting answers regarding his death. That she’s prone to horrific visions, muddles the water as well. These moments, as well as various flashbacks regarding Grace and Michael’s abusive childhoods, provide intriguing layers to the story that help to reshape it with each revelation. Obviously, this is the purpose of this oft-used narrative device but Smith employs them for a different reason, their cumulative power only evident at the end.
Malone has pulled off an impressive, as well as unobserved, approach to her career. Still cast regularly in A-list, Hollywood productions, she regularly challenges herself by accepting myriad diverse roles in low-budget indies. Whether playing David Bowie’s wife (“Stardust”), rough-hewn women struggling to get by (“Lorelei,” “Adopting Audrey”) or a desperate drug dealer (“Swallowed”), you see an actor intent on challenging herself, a performer devoted to mastering her craft to the best of her ability. Her performance here is no exception as the anguish and strength she brings to Grace is palpable, hooking us from the start. Malone’s conviction keeps us engaged, which is vital as Smith’s screenplay is at times challenging and may tax the patience of some viewers.
Rest assured, those that see “Consecration” through to the end will be rewarded as Smith has more than a few surprises up his sleeve. The ultimate solution as to why Michael was killed and Grace has visions prove a revelation, each answer twisting all we’ve seen before into a new and terrifying perspective. A thinking person’s horror film, Smith’s clever screenplay and Malone’s performance make “Consecration” hard to shake.