LFF 2022: The Eternal Daughter – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 36 minutes, Director – Joanna Hogg

A mother and daughter (Tilda Swinton) confront the past in different ways as they spend time in a hotel which was once their family home.

Joanna Hogg’s latest film, The Eternal Daughter, plays out like a personal ghost story. There’s no ghosts present, yet a haunted feeling chills the central figure, Julie (Tilda Swinton), as she paces around the halls and grounds of her former family home. She confronts the past in a much different way to her elderly mother, Rosalind (also Swinton), who largely sits and reminisces as part of a relaxed time away. Swinton is fantastic in the dual lead, effectively creating a true mother-daughter bond between the two central characters.

Rarely do they appear in the same shot; we almost always see them alone. Creating a sense of distance between the pair, further enhancing the later effects of shots where we do briefly see them together. The camera switches back and forth between them as they sit down for dinner, highlighting the natural course of conversation constructed by Hogg’s screenplay. Further conveyed in Julie’s staggered interactions with the hotel receptionist (Carly-Sophia Davies) – who almost seems to be the only member of staff, aside from kindly caretaker Bill (Joseph Mydell).

With each event and interaction the film adds an extra detail of atmosphere to both Swinton’s character and performance, and the surroundings as a whole. While there might not seem to be a great deal of development over the 96 minute run-time it’s the small details which construct the ghostly feeling which plagues the surroundings and what appears to be Julie’s building worries and frustrations. They’re quietly held in but revealed by Swinton’s performance, and the held back details as to why the trip has been made – it’s certainly more than just to see what the old family home is like now. As we reach the final stages everything comes together rather well, with a true effect thanks to the details and techniques which have been built up and demonstrated up until this point.

Like with a number of Hogg’s previous films – primarily The Souvenir – The Eternal Daughter will likely divide the audience. There will likely be a number of people who find it to be slow and drawn out due to the way that it very gradually builds up its small details for mystery and the ‘reveals’ in the final stages. However, for others, myself included, there’s enough intrigue present within the Hammer Horror style confines to engage and push things forward enough to make for an effective not-quite-ghost-story. One which is formed in Hogg’s style and details, and heightened by Swinton’s excellent dual performance.

Made in the subtle details of Hogg’s style and direction, alongside Swinton’s brilliant dual performance, The Eternal Daughter has just enough in each scene to hold interest and keep things moving for an effectively constructed ending.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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