This was a strange film, but then I suppose that’s what I’ve come to expect from Saulnier. I’ve gotten into the habit of avoiding trailers and going into movies with as little information as possible, and was under the impression this was a movie about a guy going out to hunt down a pack of wolves, so I was thrown for a bit of a loop when Wright’s character finds the boy’s body in the basement. In a good way. I’d been told this film was boring and plodding, so that was the moment when I sat up and got invested.
That big action set piece was quite good, but it felt like a scene that needed to take place later in the film. Obviously there are limitations on how Saulnier can sequence the events, this being a novel adaptation, but that scene feels like a climax. Having it take place so early in the film leaves everything that follows it feeling like an epilogue.
In all, I didn’t find the movie boring. The story doesn’t quite come together in any satisfying way, I would agree with that, but I wasn’t bored.
The film’s biggest question, Why did she kill her son?, is also never answered.
As I recall, there is one character (I forget exactly who), who tells Jeffrey Wright’s character that he has seen a lot of mothers kill their young. He suggests that they do it to protect them from the darkness.
Since this is the only explanation offered anywhere in the movie, though it didn’t come from the mother herself, this was the explanation I assumed the movie was giving us.
But then, there are a lot of questions the movie raises and then doesn’t answer. It almost makes me wonder if I should read the novel; perhaps these questions are answered there?
Riley Keogh’s character, for example, tells Wright early in the film that she never met her husband, that she had known him all her life. She has no memory that he is not a part of.
Then, later in the film, another character remarks to her husband how much the two of them look alike.
All of which had me wondering if there was some incest angle at work, and whether that plays into the wolf pack metaphor in some way.
I’m also left wondering about Keogh’s involvement in all the wolf stuff… when she killed her son, was that the first time she had donned the mask? Or had she been a predator all along?
There are also some confused character choices. Like when her husband kills the rapist in Iraq. That scene sets him up to be this protector of the innocent type character, but the film quickly lets us know that’s not who he is.
The screenplay was by Macon Blair, who also appears in the film briefly as Shan. Blair appeared in both of Saulnier’s previous movies, Blue Ruin and Green Room, starring in Green Room.
Small correction: it was Blue Ruin that Blair starred in. He had just a supporting role in Green Room.