Starring Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote Relic is about 3 generations of a family and their complex relationships between each other. Beyond that simple premises is a film about dementia and the issues it brings into a family home.
Having been away for some time Kay (Mortimer) returns home with her daughter Sam (Heathcote) after being alerted to her mother’s disappearance. However after a few days Edna (Nevin) miraculously shows up. When asked where she was she doesn’t seem to recall. So the three try and return things to some semblance of normality even though it’s quite clear Edna is slowly losing her mind sadly to dementia.
Unfortunately, the deterioration of Edna’s mind is the least of Sam and Kay’s problem as she may have brought something back with her from her little outing.
As Sam and Kay try to figure out what has happened to Edna the old family house seems to be exhibiting the same issues as Edna. A mould seems to be creeping around the house and there are noises and shadows where there shouldn’t be.
Making her feature film debut director Natalie Erika James instils a soul into the house and it’s not a particularly congenial one. As this is going on Edna is getting worse and worse and she may be bringing her family down with her in the process.
In Relic, there’s a sense of unease from the house. When Kay returns home she has disturbing dreams of an old house that was on the property. While Sam meets with an old family friend. They have a clear rapport but he doesn’t want to enter the house. He gives the place a look and that was all that was needed.
The lighting and shadow of scenes play an essential part in telling the story as well as conveying genuine trepidation. Relic could have easily been a family drama about a woman dealing with dementia and her family trying to rally around her. However, there is something under the skin of the film. It’s reminiscent of Hereditary.
The three leads are brilliant in particular Nevin who shows the deterioration of her mind in a compelling and moving way. Her rapport with Mortimer and Heathcote make for some heartbreaking moments. There is a scene between Edna and Kay and it’s heart-rending watching Kay try and figure out how to help her mother.
There is a sense of something else going on but a lot of the “horror” in Relic comes from a real place. The director took inspiration from her real-life bringing in the loss of family, the loss of one’s self.
As the film enters its final act things go from bad to bat s**t and it is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. The film also ends in a fashion that most others of its genre wouldn’t. It deals with family and those issues in a way art only can.
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