Emelie Movie Review
Written by Giuseppe Infante
Released by Dark Sky Films
Directed by Michael Thelin
Written by Richard Raymond and Harry Herbeck
2015, 80 minutes, Rated R
Released on VOD on March 4th, 2016
Sarah Bolger as Emelie
Joshua Rush as Jacob
Carly Adams as Sally
Chris Beetem as Dan
Susan Pourfar as Joyce
Dark Sky Films has been cranking out one quality flick after another, distributing and producing hits like Starry Eyes, Late Phases, We Are Still Here, The Last Survivors, Stake Land, The Innkeepers, Here Comes the Devil, and The House of the Devil, to overtly name a bunch. These films were made on shoestring budgets compared to their Hollywood counterparts. What separates these from the cash-fueled creatures lurking on America’s west coast? Each one has their own unique reckoning, but they all do share two important aspects: careful pacing and exceptional acting. Emelie embodies both of these crucial pieces of filmmaking, and adds new flavor to the “bad babysitting” genre with interestingly grotesque interactions between the babysitter and children.
Watching Emelie will resonate differently for everyone, especially parents of young children, compared to those without. Michael Thelin does a fantastic in his directorial debut, capturing trepidation through the characters; parents, children and psychopath. I cringed during several scenes in this film (which is rare) and not because bodies are being dismembered or anything gory. Pure cognitive terror. Despise ejected from my body to the point where I was clinching my teeth and wanting to punch Sarah Bolger for playing her role so freakin’ good. The movie encircles traits of a psychological thriller, but balances more on the horror side of the fence by keeping gothic tones of dread and fear throughout. Emelie is successful, standing away from other babysitter features, and would scare the shit out of my wife if she ever saw this.
Aside from Sarah Bolger’s standout performance, the children conquer their roles, especially the older two siblings, Jacob (Joshua Rush) and Sally (Carly Adams). Jacob is full of typical preteen angst and rebellion, while Sally annoyingly parades around childishly in a pink leotard with a ‘my shit don’t stank attitude.’ These three exemplify what it means to be innocent and violated, encompassed through their distinct facial expressions. Purity is lost in a crash course collision with malevolence; watch for a cold brewing in their young eyes. It makes me wonder how much of the content and context of a film is given to child actors. Who knows?
The children’s parents (Susan Pourfar and Chris Beetem) are going out to celebrate their anniversary. The couple takes viewers through the usual babysitter routine—except their usual sitter’s friend is covering. No biggie. A night on the town is a moment of liberation for parents, providing a blip freedom from the utmost responsibility bestowed on humans: parenthood. Most yearn to momentarily escape, yet the worrisome always lingers. Even though this isn’t their first rodeo away from the tikes, they still check in and all seems well through the evening. The red flag should have gone off when dad exclaimed no worries with the new sitter. During their car ride to the house, she’s charming, pretty and probably reeks like a veggie-fruit blend scented spray from Bath & Body Works. Of course she’s a normal babysitter! Dad’s not second guessing; he’s thinking with the wrong head. Pourfar and Beetem are like the two soft, delicious buns holding the beef together and complement the pacing and flow with their depiction of easy going, veteran parenting.
When it comes to a film's ending, the way it is handled differs than something like a television program. For example, the series ending for Sopranos; some loved it, some hated it. (Sopranos SPOILER ALERT) Investing a decade of one’s life to a program and it ends with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” eating onion rings at a diner and a black screen? That moment is where one wants and deserves some sort of closure. Six Feet Under had one of the best series endings ever. (SPOILER OVER) But when it comes to ending a film, the time vested with the characters is different. One isn’t anywhere near invested, and the ambiguity works better in the finale, especially when left with lingering thoughts afterward. Everyone has differing tastes and some will appreciate the ending of Emelie more than others.
The characters in Emilie could be walking the streets, shopping the malls, and driving the roads of any city or town; mom, dad, children and babysitter. This is the cycle for billions of adults and their offspring across the globe. Thinking about how many corrupt babysitters are probably out in the world makes me want to never let my girls out of my sight. This should be required viewing for all young procreators around the world. Although the movie hits a small rough patch in the latter part, Emelie is a deranging and frightening piece of cinematic art for all to endure. Through an exceptional unification of actors, cinematography and direction, Emelie displays one of the ultimate terrors of being a parent, while exploring the psyche of the human condition and reaching a “cracking” point. The 80-minute run makes this viewing experience entirely better, where it covers plenty of ground to be a full-length feature while feeling like a smooth flowing breeze. The film can be studied analytically and is not far off from reality. Living in New York City for thirty-one years, I can definitely see this situation happening. People are nuts; watch Emelie and you’ll see.
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