Rebecca Hall has had an impressive career. From her disturbing and empathetic portrayal in Christine to her knockout performance in last year’s The Night House, Hall has made a name for herself playing complex women characters. Andrew Semans’s Resurrection is no different, offering Hall a meaty role that balances intense control with unraveling sanity. The result is an affecting, brutal depiction of abuse, carefully teetering between reality and delusion. With its inclusion of gaslighting and supernatural elements, the film allows the audience to interpret what the ending is for themselves.
Margaret (Hall) is a determined and well-balanced woman who appears very successful. She runs every morning, works in a nice executive office, and comes home to a fancy apartment where she lives with her teenage daughter, Abbie (Grace Kaufman). Suddenly, her life is disrupted when David (Tim Roth), a mysterious man from her past, continuously appears wherever she goes. It’s immediately apparent that this man’s reappearance places a mental toll on Margaret, indicating something horrible happened between them years ago. As he continues to disrupt her life, Hall’s performance and the film’s use of manipulation bring into question whether Margaret is imagining things or if David is really back to cause real harm.
Although Resurrection uses frenetic editing and certain horror elements to maintain intense anxiety, the performance Hall delivers carries most of the film’s emotional impact. Her grounded execution of Margaret’s mental unraveling is impressive, and perhaps one of her best achievements to date. One scene features a seven-minute-long uncut monologue of Margaret disclosing her past with David, and even though the scene functions as pure exposition, the emotions Hall can communicate between just the flick of an eye and a pause are masterful. In these seven minutes, she conveys the depth of the abuse and mental turmoil Margaret suffered. Following this scene, the film’s established energy is ramped up to an even higher degree due to the feelings Hall is able to express.
While the film moves at a rapid pace that matches Margaret’s decaying mental state, it also commits completely to the horrors of its subject matter in order to tell an affecting story. Tim Roth is terrifying as an abuser who manipulates and gaslights Margaret every chance he gets. A moment when he flashes a menacing smile back at her indicates the depth of his sadistic nature. The suffering David put Margaret through in the past is meant to be believed — we know this man is not to be trusted — but by uniting this fact with Margaret’s deteriorating psyche, the film brings into question whether she is truly seeing David, or is so traumatized that she is imagining him.
Although the middle of the narrative may veer off into easily expected and uncreative plotlines that are familiar in stories about abuse, Resurrection plants itself as a sincerely unique film. As it launches itself into its shocking grand finale, there is no doubt that Semans has crafted something singular. Apart from Hall and Roth’s dedicated performances, the film itself stays committed to its premise. The ending is open to interpretation, which allows the audience to take from it what they wish. However one chooses to see it, Resurrection stands as a gruesome account of the aftermath of abuse, and how one woman works to reclaim what she lost.