Kay (Emily Mortimer) goes to visit her mother Edna (Robyn Nevin) with her daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) and upon arrival they find her gone. With no indication as to where she went, Kay and Sam alert the police and are surprised when three days later Edna turns up dishevelled, confused and acting as if nothing has happened. As Kay starts to consider the best way to take care of her mother, Sam starts to suspect there’s more going on than just her grandmother battling dementia.
‘Relic’ is the feature film directorial debut of Natalie Erika James and it’s a terrifying but very emotional exploration of a family dealing with the effects of dementia. When Kay and Sam arrive at the house and Edna’s not there, they spend time looking around and find signs that Edna isn’t able to live on her own any longer. Once she returns, Kay immediately thinks about putting her mother in a home whereas Sam, who is in denial, suggests moving in with her. Edna isn’t having any of it and she can’t understand why her family are in a rush to remove her from her house.
Things get creepy very quickly as Edna’s behaviour escalates and she exhibits signs of paranoia, asking Kay to check under her bed and warning Sam about a room that’s locked to prevent something getting into the house. After that point, all three women go on a journey that culminates in a gripping and intense finale that will shred your nerves and leave you quite shaken. Without giving too much away, you’ll find yourself very emotional too, which isn’t what I expected when I started the film.
Director James really understands how to bring to life the fears of the three central characters and she makes dementia into a demon-like entity that affects all three women, not just Edna. The film’s second half sees some visual representations of battling dementia that are unsettling, disorientating and claustrophobic. That all leads to a climax of the likes I’ve never seen before and it’ll leave a lasting impression on me.
The three central performances are extraordinary. Emily Mortimer gives her strongest performance yet as Kay, a woman who wants to do the best by her mother but is full of guilt about how she hasn’t always been there for her. Roby Nevin gives a truly unnerving performance as Edna, switching from a sweet grandma to something altogether more terrifying, often in the same scene. The trio is completed by Bella Heathcote who brings emotion and compassion to the table as Sam, the grand-daughter who wants to believe her grandmother is fine even though deep down she knows that’s not the case.
‘Relic’ is a superb horror that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. You think you know where the film will take you but you’ll soon find you have no ideas. James’ atmospheric direction creates a deeply involving and layered film that you’ll have to watch a few times to fully appreciate. Like the mold all over Edna’s walls, ‘Relic’ will take hold of you and quickly spread, and you won’t be able to get rid of it from your mind for a long time after it finishes.
Cast: Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote, Robyn Nevin Director: Natalie Erika James Writers: Natalie Erika James & Christian White Certificate: 18 Duration: 89 mins Released by: Signature Entertainment
‘Relic’ will be released in cinemas and on Digital HD on 30th October 2020.