Estranged (2015)


UK/USA. 2015.


Director – Adam Levins, Screenplay – Simon Fantauzzo, Story – William Borthwick & Simon Fantauzzo, Producer – William Borthwick, Photography – Gary Shaw, Music – Brian Crosby, Additional Music – Mark Binder, Special Effects Supervisor – Scott McIntyre, Makeup Design – Catherine Smith, Production Design – Sarah Beaman. Production Company – Face Films/Vicarious Entertainment/Room 101/Pari Passu Films/Northern Film & Media


Amy Manson (January), James Cosmo (Albert), Craig Conway (Thomas), James Lance (Laurence), Eileen Nichols (Marilyn), Nora-Jane Noone (Katherine), Simon Quaterman (Callum)


January and her boyfriend Callum are holidaying in Brazil when the motorcycle they are on collides with a car. Recovering afterwards, January is left with amnesia. She and Callum return to her family estate back in England. There she is welcomed by her family, even though she has no memory of who they are. However, Callum finds their lack of welcome towards him off-putting. January then wakes in the morning to be told that Callum has gone. She now finds that she is being held a prisoner by her family.

Estranged was the directorial debut for Adam Levins, a Danish-born, British-based former cinematographer. Levins subsequently went on to co-direct the fascinating documentary Population Zero (2016) about a murder in Yellowstone National Park that was unable to be prosecuted due to a legal loophole.

It would have easy to imagine Estranged as one of the psycho-thrillers produced by Hammer in the 1960s – probably shot in black-and-white and directed by Freddie Francis. The plot of an heiress returning to her country home after an accident and finding sinister things afoot has undeniable similarities to the plots of Francis-made films such as Paranoiac (1963) and Hysteria (1965). Indeed, there is little about the current film that would have to be changed for it to work as a classic British psycho-thriller.

Adam Levins makes fantastic use of the beautiful old house and estate. As the title suggests, the film is one of alienation and an air of disquiet predominates as Amy Manson returns home, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what is going on. Levins takes a long time to arrive at the horror element but when he does he has more than capably brought the elements into place and lets them play out. He also takes a long time to reveal what is happening with the family – and when he does, you do think maybe that more of a jolt revelation could have been made of it. (We never find out what happened to Callum, for instance). However, it all builds to a more than effectively bloody revenge ending.

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