Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Written and directed by Alejandro Amenabar, Regression is the story of a detective who investigates a sexual abuse case made by a 17-year old girl against her father who has no recollection of what had happened. The film is an exploration into the world of child abuse as well as fact vs. fiction over what really happened as it relates to Satanic cults. Starring Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis, Aaron Ashmore, Devon Bostick, Dale Dickey, Lothaire Bluteau, Peter MacNeil, and David Dencik. Regression is an intriguing yet extremely messy film from Alejandro Amenabar.
Set in 1990 at a small town in Minnesota, the film revolves around a detective who investigates the sexual abuse of a 17-year old girl who claimed to have been sexually abused by her father. In the course of the investigation with the aid of a local psychiatrist, Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) learns that some of the abuse involve Satanic rituals as the case becomes complicated with Kenner getting too close. It’s a film that plays into a man trying to see what had happened while he interrogates this girl’s father to see if he really did anything. Once Kenner asks Angela Gray (Emma Watson) about what had happened and some of the things she revealed, Kenner would start to see things as if there is a Satanic cult in this small town.
Alejandro Amenabar’s script does create some compelling ideas about sexual abuse and regressed memories but once the story begins to include these ideas of Satanic rituals. It starts to lose focus on what is really going on and the aspects of the suspense and mystery starts to lose itself. Especially when Kenner and Professor Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis) begin to interrogate members of Angela’s family including her father John (David Dencik) who turned himself in to the police claiming he did something to his daughter. Once other members of Angela’s family such as her grandmother Rose (Dale Dickey) is questioned about her possible role in Satanic rituals, things definitely become confusing about what is truth and what is fiction. Especially as the most rational character in the film in Professor Raines begins to be sort of a Greek chorus of sorts about what is really going on and wonders if any of it is true.
Amenabar’s direction definitely has a unique sense of atmosphere in terms of its setting while it is shot largely in Toronto and other parts of Canada. Even in his approach to compositions as it plays into the dramatic elements such as the conversations between Kenner and Raines where they try to make sense of everything. Amenabar would also use some close-ups and medium shots to create some intimate moments as well as some scenes that play into Kenner talking to Angela and getting her to talk. The scenes which involve these Satanic rituals are meant to be scary but a lot of it ends up being very silly. By the time the film moves into its third act, more questions get raised as it relates to the hysteria of these accusations of Satanic rituals which does lead to a twist in the third act that doesn’t just kill whatever intrigue the film had. It also leads to an overdrawn ending as it related to regressed memories as well as how faith can distort reality. Overall, Amenabar creates an interesting but very troubled film about a sexual abuse case with elements of Satanic rituals.
Cinematographer Daniel Aranyo does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of bluish imagery for many of the film‘s daytime exterior scenes along with some intricate lighting for scenes set at night. Editor Carolina Martinez Urbina does some fine work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts though its attempt to create suspense with its fast-cuts don‘t really work as it makes it too obvious. Production designer Carol Spier, with set decorator Friday Myers and art director Elinor Rose Galbraith, does nice work with the look of the Gray family home as well as the church where Angela is staying at. Costume designer Sonia Grande does terrific work with the clothes as it’s mostly casual with the exception of the black robes the Satanists wear.
The visual effects work of Carlos Adarraga and Ezequiel Larru is good for some of the scenes in the Satanic ritual sequences as it plays into this blur of reality and fiction. Sound designer Gabriel Gutierrez does superb work with the sound to help play into the suspense and drama as well as scenes of horror. The film’s music by Roque Banos is pretty good for some of the orchestral-based music of the film that delves into the drama and suspense though it feels overdone at times.
The casting by Jina Jay and Jason Knight is amazing for the group of actors that are assembled though many are either caricatures or aren’t given much to do. Notable small performances from Adam Butcher and Kristian Bruun as a couple of local cops and Aaron Abrams as a detective named Farrell have their moments while Aaron Ashmore is alright as a cop who is accused of being part of the Satanic cult. Peter MacNeil is terrific as the local police chief who tries to deal with the attention over what is happening though he is severely underwritten. Devon Bostick is good as Angela’s older brother Roy who has been estranged from the family for mysterious reasons as he is confronted by Kenner and Raines where he would reveal some eerie family secrets. Dale Dickey is fantastic as Angela’s grandmother Rose as a woman who may be in denial over what happened as she copes with the chaos that is surrounding her family.
David Dencik is superb as Angela’s father John as a man who turns himself in to the police at the beginning of the film as he becomes unsure of what he did as he is consumed by guilt over his actions. Lothaire Bluteau is alright as Reverend Murray as the local religious leader who has taken Angela in as he also confides in Kenner and Raines to rely on faith which annoys the latter. David Thewlis is brilliant as Professor Kenneth Raines as a psychiatrist who is trying to analyze Angela’s family as he believes something isn’t right while being the smartest guy in the film. Emma Watson is wonderful as Angela Gray as a 17-year old girl who claims to be sexually abused as well as revealing that her family is part of a Satanic cult where Watson has this air of innocence to her but the script doesn’t really do much for her which hinders some of her performance as well as her motivations in the film. Finally, there’s Ethan Hawke in a stellar yet flawed performance as Detective Bruce Kenner as a detective who gets too close into the case where Hawke overdoes it at times in someone who is determined to get things right while also making himself look foolish due to the demands of the script.
Regression is a very disappointing and messy film from Alejandro Amenabar. Despite an interesting subject on regressed memories, it’s a film that wanted to say a lot of things but ends up being very convoluted and idiotic at times with characters that end up looking foolish. In the end, Regression is a terrible film from Alejandro Amenabar.
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