Baltimore Sun

Thriller shows Rebecca Hall’s chops for woman in deep peril

- By Michael Phillips Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic. mjphillips@chicagotri­bune. com Twitter @phillipstr­ibune

In the movies, the interior trauma so many women endure years, even decades after the end of an abusive relationsh­ip is resolved with a cruelly misleading lack of fuss or psychologi­cal fallout.

Eventually the tormentor must be killed, and then life goes on for the newly cleansed character played by the actor above the title.

IFC’s “Resurrecti­on” follows that template, to a point, though with Rebecca Hall in the leading role, the emotion terrain staked out truly is riveting, authentic, messy — even when writer-director Andrew Semans’ second feature falls short.

Is this the fate of extraordin­ary actors? To outclass their own slightly frustratin­g psychologi­cal thrillers, as Hall did two years ago in “The Night House”? Apparently. Yet in both cases there’s just enough there to support the star.

In the Albany, New York-set “Resurrecti­on” Hall plays Maggie, a tightly coiled businesswo­man with a college-bound daughter (Grace Kaufman, excellent) and a married co-worker for a sometime lover (Michael Esper). Her life is, above all, controllab­le and stringentl­y handled.

Then Maggie starts seeing someone, across a room, or in a store, or a park: the sociopath who, 22 years earlier, seduced her and initiated a sinister power dynamic dominated by emotional and physical cruelty. And worse. In high, artful snivel,

Tim Roth plays this man, David, and as “Resurrecti­on” proceeds, Maggie’s increasing­ly panicked existence becomes a waking

nightmare as she finds out why he has returned to stalk and manipulate.

Is what Maggie is experienci­ng real?

There are eerie clues to something awful afoot, and to a past that isn’t over. The daughter finds a stray, decayed tooth in her coin purse. A camera pivot to Maggie’s bare back reveals troubling cigarette burn marks.

Semans takes Maggie’s plight seriously, and Hall’s sudden gasps of realizatio­n, and vividly intense episodes of pure grief or spiritual exhaustion, flecked by fear, feel exactly right in every scene.

Less persuasive­ly, I think, the film plods and wobbles the closer it gets to the showdown between formidable combatants. As the storytelli­ng tactic grow more dreamlike and amorphous (though pretty grisly), the story itself settles for more routine sorts of guessing games.

On balance it’s worth seeing for what Hall, Roth, Kaufman and (as an intern who comes to know the depths of Maggie’s past)

Angela Carbone muster as an chamber ensemble.

Recent pandemic-era thrillers ranging from

“The Invisible Man” to “Kimi” and “Resurrecti­on” have invested real and raw feeling in the womanin-peril scenario, upping the emotional stakes and the psychic ravages of sexual violence. Audiences respond to the best of these; certainly actors on the order of Elisabeth Moss and Zoe Kravitz respond, with some of the finest work they’ve accomplish­ed to date.

Just as certainly,

Rebecca Hall makes Maggie’s past and present states scarifying­ly real. The film is often good; never for a moment is Hall’s performanc­e anything less.

MPAA rating: R (for violence, language) Running time: 1:43

How to watch: In theaters

 ?? IFC MIDNIGHT ?? Rebecca Hall stars as Maggie in “Resurrecti­on.”
IFC MIDNIGHT Rebecca Hall stars as Maggie in “Resurrecti­on.”

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