Margaret’s life is in order. She is capable, disciplined, and successful. Everything is under control. That is, until David returns, carrying with him the horrors of Margaret’s past.
I’ve been turning Andrew Semans’ “Resurrection” over and over in my mind since having seen it two weeks ago. It’s a hard film to shake as it delves into the long-term effects of emotional and psychological abuse. The film requires an investment of attention and consideration on the viewer’s part while its ending is ambiguous and disturbing, providing no easy answers. To be sure, it has its flaws, but they are ones of overreaching ambition rather than the result of pedestrian decisions. Still and all, the fact that I am still wrestling with is welcome, as so much of what I see is forgotten in the time it takes me to walk from the theater lobby to my car.
Rebecca Hall is Margaret, a single mother and corporate executive. She requires a sense of meticulous order in her life, as evidenced by her abhorrence for rings left from wet glasses on tables and the sexual rendezvous she has with a co-worker, arranged so that they do not intrude on her personal life. The fact that she’s tightly wound is masked by a demeanor of stern confidence which invites little in the way of questions or opposition. She suffers no fools.
However, her world begins to crumble when, while attending a business conference, she spies her old lover David (Tim Roth) from across the room. Her composure disappears in an instant, a panic attack sets in, and she flees the room, running with an intensity suggesting her life is in danger. Margaret does her best to put the incident out of her mind. However, seeing David in a park outside her office the next day confirms their meeting was far from happenstance.
What David wants from Margaret and just what their history is, I hesitate to say. It is truly a bizarre sense of circumstances, and I would be undercutting Semans’ fine work as well as the efforts of his two leads. Experiencing the sense of shock the revelation about their relationship provides and pondering the questions it prompts are part of the experience of seeing “Resurrection.” Trust me, it’s better that I leave you here…
Issues of self-care and agency are at the core of the movie, as David has such an influence over Margaret that her behavior changes radically and those around her, her confused daughter Abbie (Grace Kaufman) chief among them, begin to question her sanity. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more compelling performance than what Hall provides here. Her gradual decline from overly assured to complete wreck is heartbreaking to witness, the actor so fully invests herself in realizing this woman’s decline. A seven-minute monologue Hall delivers in which we discover what connects her to her tormentor is the most compelling thing I’ve seen on screen this year. Hall has us in the palm of her hand and she rewards our investment in her and the story.
Again, I’m still pondering the ending but what I’m left with is the powerful, thorny messages Semans conveys. Unwilling to recognize their own ills, those in extreme pain often lash out to inflict their misery on others; only in making others as miserable as they are, can they find any purpose. Equally powerful is the film’s warning, that those who are in denial or have not dealt with the trauma they’ve been subjected to remain vulnerable. “Resurrection” proves to be a cautionary tale, advising the viewer that only by dealing with our own demons can we hope to combat those others are plagued with. In refusing to do so, we leave ourselves vulnerable at our own peril.