Andrew Seman’s second feature is a bold yet inconsistent look at toxic relationships
Toxic relationships are a complex subject whose discussions and experience are hard to talk about let alone depict in an empathic way. Many times, the small details and addictions of such a relationship are so intimate that they can only be understood by those participating in them. However, bold artists have sought to look at this toxicity, and people are becoming more comfortable discussing such subjects, stemming from the #MeToo movement as well as a broader acceptance of mental health issues. The latest filmmaker to tackle this subject head on is Andrew Semans with his second feature film Resurrection (2022).
Resurrection follows Margaret (Rebecca Hall) a collected biotech executive who is a slightly over-protective single mom to 17-year-old Abbie (Grace Kauffman). However, a mysterious man (Tim Roth) from her past shows up, and a buried trauma begins to surface making Margaret lose control of her carefully curated life and descend slowly into madness and paranoia.
Semans’ previous film was the ambitious, but uneven Nancy, Please (2012) ten years ago. He retains a patience in his filmmaking, where a slow-build up is relished rather than forced. By taking on a much darker tone than the sometimes-comedic Nancy, Please, Semans’ style fits better with Resurrection. The patience pays off in the slow build of paranoia as we descend into madness with Margaret, and yet clash with the supporting characters that see a different reality. Semans digs into a complex and treacherous subject with toxic relationships and the scars that they can leave on people. The first act of Resurrection brilliantly sets this up with subtlety and misdirection, but Semans sadly begins to go down a blocky path of revealing too much and taking things a bit too literally. Certain character choices seem to condemn Margaret, instead of illustrating the addiction that victims suffer and that forces them down dark paths.
Semans seems to lose patience for certain aspects of Resurrection, while dragging out others. This makes the pace slow to a crawl, especially when the climactic central revelation of the story is placed in the middle of the runtime. This leads to a second half that is unsure as to how to reach its predictable finale. As such, a certain redundancy of toxic paranoia begins to take shape, as Semans stretches out the film’s runtime without a proper hook for the audience. If Semans had retained crucial information until the end, or even kept it all vague, it would have added to the intrigue of the slow second act. Likewise, by taking things down too literal of a path, Semans loses the subtle symbolisms littered in the beginning, and devolved Resurrection into a rather exploitative film.
Rebecca Hall has been on an impressive career path, choosing few but incredibly interesting films such as Christine (2016), The Night House (2021), and even her directorial debut in Passing (2021). Resurrection is largely carried by Hall, despite some notable supporting turns from Roth and Kauffman. Hall has the difficult task of melding her character slowly from a position of power to one of supplication. Semans knows of Hall’s talent and wisely lets his camera linger on her for long single takes. One particularly impressive one being the misplaced, but impressive exposition dump, which Hall turns into a soliloquy of her pain.
In the end, Resurrection is an intriguing film that raises questions about toxic relationships, a subject that deserves to be explored and discussed more. Semans has a good set up, but his structuring and inconsistency costs the film its core identity. Resurrection, thus, ends up being a neither a proper thriller nor horror, resembling a half-finished product of both. This unfortunately flattens the stronger aspects of Resurrection that not even the talented Hall can polish up.