Friday, 15 July 2016

queen of earth

queen of earth follows troubled artist catherine (elisabeth moss) who moves to her best friend virginia's (katherine waterston) lake house to recover from losing her father and breaking up with her boyfriend. however, being in a place with so many memories seems to accelerate catherine's disintegration rather than giving her space to heal. but ignore this synopsis, because the only way to enjoy this film is to go with it and see what it does to you.

it's difficult to write about queen of earth without making comparisons to films like repulsion or lets scare jessica to death as it has a similar atmosphere and comparable intent. this is a film that aims to get inside the head of someone who is losing their mind. it is a horror film in so much as it depicts something horrible in a way that is terrifying, but at the same time shows much more restraint than those other films. catherine's madness comes on so gradually that it's not clear what's really happening or what the film is even about until it's too late both for her and the audience. when catherine realises the full extent of her condition we share the shock and the horror of that moment and that's what makes this film work.

queen of earth is not an easy film to watch at times. it has a kind of broken structure, where scenes from different parts of the timeline are shuffled so that we often don't know how much time has passed or whether we're seeing something from the present or the past. the film hangs on title cards indicating days of the week to give us some sense of consistency, but even these become meaningless by the end. and yet this is all part of director alex ross perry's plan to bring the audience into catherine's head. the occasional time jumps or unnannounced flashbacks make the viewer feel as disorientated as catherine herself must feel.

what really makes this work are the two central performances. elisabeth moss is fantastic as catherine, giving her a humanity that keeps us hoping for the best even when we know the worst is happening behind her eyes. she portrays her breakdown with that same restraint that the story requires and this makes it feel all the more real. there is also a brilliant performance by katherine waterston as cateherine's best friend, virginia. waterston plays katherins as cold and distant for most of the film, but when she realises and accepts what's happening to her friend her reaction is truly heartbreaking. patrick fugit also does a great job as an antagonistic neighbour.

as much as this is a film about paranoia and madness, and as much as there are easy comparisons here to horror movies and psychological thrillers, ultimately this is a story about friendship; it's about the things we take for granted in a friendship, and the things we don't realise we need until it's too late. it's about two women dealing with life, and the madness, when it comes, is the type of madness we can all relate to. with queen of earth, alex ross perry has made a film that starts to get under your skin from the opening titles and will stay with you for days afterwards.

queen of earth is available now on dual format (blu-ray and dvd) from eureka entertainment.

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