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MOVIES (LFF 2022): The Eternal Daughter - Review

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Joanna Hogg and Tilda Swinton have been making excellent films for a while; The Souvenir duology paired Hogg with Swinton and her daughter, Honor Swinton-Bryne – for a coming of age movie about a director learning to live on her own independently. The Eternal Daughter has Tilda play Honor’s character in all but... well, I'd say name – she shares the same name, same occupation, is older – and has a same familiar background; but this time Tilda is playing her mother as well as Julie herself in an amazing dual role. This Julie takes her mother to an old, almost empty hotel in Wales to celebrate her birthday with the aim of bringing back past memories to light, but it doesn’t quite always pan out the way you’d expect.

Richly owing influence to gothic horror art, The Eternal Daughter borrows liberally from the likes of The Shining and Del Toro’s art. There’s an ode to classics like The Uninvited and more as Hogg embraces the atmosphere – running with a spooky creation of the grounds of the hotel. Julie and her mother are the only guests there it seems, and a Northern receptionist simultaneously handles desk duty and waitress duty by herself – increasingly annoyed as the days go on. There’s a groundskeeper, William – who we don’t meet until a good portion of the film has passed – but the aim of getting Julie’s mother to talk about her past brings out hidden secrets that she is trying to bury – and it turns out that she too, had memories of the place both bad as well as good.

Not reliant on the usual horror tropes it almost feels wrong calling The Eternal Daughter a horror the same way that say; everyone marketed Crimson Peak as a horror. This is metaphorical horror with a capital M, feeling almost comically understated in its approach to a fault – the subtlety is key and the final revelations leave you shocked for a few moments as the emotional impact lands brilliantly. It’s a well crafted affair but its approach to its coldness can almost leave you feeling a bit hollow and empty at times, like a well orchestrated snooze-fest. There’s no surprises guessing which company distributed The Eternal Daughter – that’s A24 – and The Eternal Daughter almost feels like a victim of that association even though the whole film is an incredibly personal work. What would have made this even stronger if this had been in black and white rather than colour; the film feels deeply in touch with the gothic horror stories of The Innocents and others of its ilk.

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