Regression (2015) ***
D: Alejandro Amenábar
C: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Thewlis, David Dencik, Devon Bostick, Dale Dickey, Aaron Ashmore, Lothaire Bluteau, Adam Butcher, Aaron Abrams
Plot Synopsis: A detective and a psychoanalyst uncover evidence of a satanic cult while investigating the rape of a traumatized teen.
Review: In Regression, a police detective (Hawke) tries to put together the pieces involving a teen (Watson) who accuses her father of molestation. However, there's greater implications as these accusations are centered around a satanic cult involving not only the girl's family, but even a member of the police force.
From there, Regression paints this portrait of a small town with a seemingly normal facade that harbors an insidious nature. Evil surrounds us, but we choose to block it out. Watson's accusations forces people to open their eyes, but at what cost? The media is quick to play up to the sensationalism of the case. Hawke becomes unraveled in his search for the truth. Lives are destroyed. Others are forced to confront feelings that they've tried to repress.
Regression is a slow burn in that we watch as the pieces are laid out. Then, in a domino effect, we watch as those pieces fall into place. To talk about those pieces and how they come together, would be to give away the movie. That's something I wouldn't dare to do. What Regression does well is that they hide their moves & conceal their strategies in plain view. It's not until the audience is clued in, that we see what's been in front of us all along. That's what makes this a refreshing change from the norm in that they don't present cheap plot twists for the sake of an awww or ahhh moment, but because they're a natural extension of and contribute to the story being told.
Performance wise, Ethan Hawke is credible. He's what keeps you engaged in this multi tiered story that takes time to fully present itself. David Dencik, as the dad accused of molestation, is riveting and brings humanity to a character that's done truly terrible things. However, Aaron Ashmore, twin brother of Shawn Ashmore, is never fully convincing. Not so much, because he's miscast, but because of the way his character is presented. Playing a small town police officer, Ashmore's muscular frame is downplayed. His complexion comes across as paler. His hair color has been darkened, his mustache accentuated. His blue eyes don't pop, possibly because he has color contacts in? They do everything possible to remove Ashmore's good looks. As a result, it comes across as a performance more so. Good acting has to be invisible in the sense that you don't notice that the person is acting. All of these measures, to change Ashmore's appearance, have the opposite affect in that it draws attention to the visual of his character, instead of allowing you to focus on Ashmore's performance. However, that's only a minor quibble in a movie that gets so much right.
Regression presents a scenario, a slice of life that most of us have forgotten. We experience a journey that we didn't necessarily want to in the first place, but we're all the richer, because we have. When the finale arrives, it isn't with guns a blazing or horror set pieces, but with two characters sharing dialogue, accepting what's happened and looking within themselves for the answers. It's a powerful moment, because it comes from a place that feels authentic and true.
For those that wish this had ended with a big horror or action set piece, they're bound to feel all the more disappointed since Regression doesn't fit neatly into a little box. It's considered, thought provoking and asks us to look within ourselves, to think of what evil means to us and to look into how our thoughts are shaped. Films that challenge preconceived notions are bound to turn off some, probably the greater majority, but for those willing to exercise perceptive muscle, this is a rewarding experience. [R] 106 minutes.
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