LFF 2020: Relic – Review

Release Date – 30th October 2020, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 29 minutes, Director – Natalie Erika James

When Edna (Robyn Nevin) suddenly returns after going missing her daughter (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter (Bella Heathcote) go to her home to discover an unseen presence that seems to be consuming her

Relic sits in the vein of real-scenario, grief-related horrors, such as Hereditary with its look into the horror of losing a child. Although, Relic very much sits on the other side of the age spectrum taking a look at dementia how it consumes and changes people. Edna (Robyn Nevin) goes missing out of the blue leading her daughter, Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter, Sam (Bella Heathcote to travel to her home to see what’s going on. When she turns up claiming to be fine not long after they arrive there’s definitely something different about her behaviour, as if something is gradually forcing her to act out against her family, potentially leading them to be consumed as well.

The walls of the small home are already cramped, with a number of rooms and corridors filled with various boxes and memories. For Sam they seem to close in on her, trapping her inside an endlessly dark stretch of fear and uncertainty. Meanwhile Kay finds herself worrying about her mother. What’s happening to her? Is this dementia or is something else happening? Their relationship is tested as Edna’s actions begin to almost take against her own daughter, snapping at random points at small exchanges. Throughout her film director and co-writer, with Christian White, Natalie Erika James hints at the confusion and fear that dementia has on people, the impact that it has on the people around those who have it; translating such ideas into a visual horror.

Often the elements of horror come in short bursts within the drama of the film, which seems to be the dominating element. It feels more like a drama with some horror elements, at least in the first half, before shifting into a full horror in the second half. Perhaps because of this, the tone and the narrative that the film sets up, the fear factor doesn’t quite come through. You can understand what the characters are going through and empathise with some of them, however when the tone shifts in the final stages to truly show a visual sense to the genre the tone almost changes as it seems to demonstrate something different to the rest of the film. Going down a more conventional line for the genre during such moments instead of managing to quite continue the tone of the dramatic moments.

These points are quickly jumped back into, meaning that the more genre orientated bursts are quite short and moved on from rather fast meaning that the impact does feel somewhat lessened. However, there’s enough within the drama, within the characters reactions to what they see in the supposed real-world to keep the viewer interested and wanting to see how things turn out. The film might have its stumbles and in terms of horror might, like Hereditary, be quite divisive. However, when it comes to the three central performances there’s enough detail and skill, alongside James’ careful and thoughtful direction and handling of the topic and themes of the piece, to keep you situated with the characters and keeping track of their minds and states over the course of its short run-time. And with a film like this and what it covers that’s quite possibly the exact thing you need to not just keep you engaged but for the horror to connect and work, which for a number of people the film is bound to do.

Relic is likely to prove a divisive film when it comes to the horror angle, taking a bit more of a conventional scare style during the more horror-orientated moments. However, with the performances and direction coming together to create a decent drama there’s a fair deal of be interested and engaged by within the film.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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