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Friday, June 26, 2020

[Cannes Review] ‘Marionette’ Puppeteers Ambitious Head Game in Twisty Psychological Thriller

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense centered around an increasingly complex relationship between a child therapist and his new ward, building up to an unforgettable twist reveal about that relationship. Marionette hones in on that dynamic with laser focus, reconfiguring it to create something far more cerebral and philosophical. Presenting a new take on the creepy kid subgenre, Marionette’s unique riff on a modern classic offers an unexpected, winding psychological thriller.

Directed by Elbert van Strien, who co-wrote the script with Ben Hopkins, this heady thriller opens with a jarring scene in which a man (Peter Mullan) ascends to the rooftops of a hospital and lights himself on fire. From there, it cuts to our protagonist Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten, In Bruges), arriving in Scotland to settle into her new life. She’s a child therapist looking to start fresh after the loss of her husband. While still reeling with the trauma of that loss, Marianne’s work sees her trying to help her young patients cope with their troubles. When it comes to new patient Manny (Elijah Wolf), however, Marianne becomes increasingly unnerved and perplexed. The hostile boy claims to control her future, knows things he couldn’t possibly know, and drawings of grisly fates of those around him have a tendency to come true. It sparks off a twisty head game between therapist and patient with high stakes.

Straightaway, Manny is openly hostile and menacing. Yet what could’ve been just another creepy kid movie becomes a psychological push and pull. Told entirely through Marianne’s perspective, the film bides its time chipping away at her fragile state of mind. Her recent loss still weighs heavy, settling into a new job in a new country takes its toll, alcoholism takes root, and every interaction with Manny threatens to further push her over the edge. That’s before Marionette weaves in thoughtful discussions on theology and philosophy, all contributing to ambiguity.

The downside to juggling so many ideas meant to keep you guessing is that this thriller loses some emotional heft. Marianne connects with a colleague, Kieran (Prometheus’s Emun Elliott), but their budding romance lacks finesse in its development. Some of that has to do with the way it overlaps with Marianne’s flashbacks, but much of it has to do with the full plate of heavy concepts. Marionette also features one or two too many endings. Once this thriller shows its hand, there are still two other codas tacked on to bring additional left turns. They’re vital to the overall theme, but the overly stretched first half makes this seem rushed. Reuten gives her all as the unreliable protagonist, but sometimes the material rushes her through the stages of increasing instability.

Scotland lends its natural beauty to this thriller, from lush landscape and overcast climate, giving Marionette a Gothic feel that works well in building the atmosphere. It’s also an apt representation of Marianne’s headspace; flashbacks to happier times with her still alive husband are much more vibrant and sunshine-filled. All of which to say, Marionette is highly ambitious, both visually and narratively.

A psychological thriller that revels in its cerebral mind games, Marionette gives a refreshing alternate take to the recent string of horror featuring creepy kids. It’s moody, Gothic in tone and look, and asks weighty questions with no easy answers. Until the tidy conclusion comes along, anyway, it runs a little overlong and rushes through important character beats, but Strien does succeed in creating a high concept thriller that doesn’t quite go where you’d expect.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3621302/cannes-review-marionette-puppeteers-ambitious-head-game-twisty-psychological-thriller-embargo-lifted-6-24/

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