A humdrum thriller that clumsily digs into themes of sexual and emotional trauma, Amy Redford’s sophomore characteristic “Roost” follows Anna (Grace Van Dien), an archetypal perceptive teenage lady on the cusp of maturity. As a result of she’s the observant sort who yearns for giant concepts and prospects outdoors of her small suburban world, it’s no shock that it isn’t a sq. teenage boy from her faculty that romantically sweeps Anna off her toes, however a person of almost 30 years of age she’s met on-line.
He’s the creepily mysterious Eric (Kyle Gallner, chillingly efficient), somebody who ignites Anna’s all-consuming feelings, shares her love of Emily Dickinson and notices (no less than on the floor) the complexities of this younger lady who needs to cross over to maturity quick. However when he exhibits up at Anna’s doorstep uninvited all too abruptly after touring a whole lot of miles, he rattles the disturbed Anna, who struggles with saying a agency no to Eric’s disarming demeanor.
The younger lady’s dilemma — ought to she give into or reject Eric? — absolutely makes for a good sufficient premise, regardless that the reply needs to be extraordinarily apparent to somebody as sensible and alert as Anna. Nonetheless, her quandary is a ripe and ever-timely basis that immediately invitations comparisons to Joyce Chopra’s underrated Laura Dern-starring “Easy Speak” — an ahead-of-its-time #MeToo film that comprehends the headspace of a teenage lady and the highly effective sway of feeling seen and understood by a grown-up at a lonely, high-stakes age. It additionally brings to thoughts the latest, 2022 Sundance directing award winner “Palm Bushes and Energy Traces” by Jamie Dack, a title that takes a fair darker route with comparable inquiries.
In adapting screenwriter Scott Organ’s play, Redford (sure, Robert’s daughter) doesn’t take both course nonetheless, no less than not explicitly. As a substitute, her movie introduces a shock connection between Eric and Anna’s single mom Beth (Summer Phoenix), a cool-mom kind who maintains an in depth relationship together with her daughter that resembles a friendship greater than accountable parenting. Earlier than the shift in dynamics arrives amid the trio, we get launched to the routines of Anna and Beth throughout an early scene the place Beth joyfully flaunts her new diamond ring to her daughter, saying her engagement to her boyfriend Tim (Jesse Garcia) who works in regulation enforcement. The information will get warmly acquired and feted by Anna, who’s approaching a celebration of her personal together with her seventeenth birthday celebration simply across the nook.
There’s a palpable sense of self-conscious overacting in Phoenix’s efficiency all through, particularly when she sees Eric and visibly acknowledges him from a previous life throughout which she used to work as a schoolteacher. Phoenix feels heavy-handed and self-aware in her expressions and physique language as Beth tries to speak Anna out of her affection for and belief in Eric, clearly trying to cowl her personal tracks for a secret wrongdoing she’s received on her file. Alternatively, Van Dien (granddaughter of Robert Mitchum) infuses the movie with a sublime mix of wide-eyed vulnerability and refined tenacity, incomes sympathy for her character who will get heartlessly victimized by the reckless grown-ups round her.
As soon as the story’s chief shock arrives — a plot flip that’s extra part of the premise than a stunning last twist — Anna will get sidelined, leaving the stage to Eric and Beth as the 2 attempt to settle previous scores. It’s fairly apparent that Beth has cruelly and immorally used Eric again within the day regardless of denying it now, overstepping a really “Notes on a Scandal”-type boundary that shouldn’t be crossed between an educator ready of energy and an underage scholar.
Twelve years after the incident, is Eric — now a broken grownup who ought to nonetheless know higher — again for revenge or does he genuinely care about Anna? If solely the story was a bit extra keen to interact with the stifling aftermath of such an abuse of energy, reasonably than merely to make use of this query as surface-level fodder for a thriller that feels neither all that gripping nor modern, irrespective of how unpredictable the film tries to be. Briefly, the slightest trace of freshness emerges in “Roost,” a uncommon movie that makes an attempt to depict how males would possibly proceed to undergo the implications of abuse in maturity. However in its wake, “Roost” leaves an sick hint in its entitled squandering of Anna as a scapegoat paying for her mom’s misconducts. Primarily based on the whole lot we get to find out about this clever character, Anna’s continuous lack of fine judgement really makes no defensible sense.
In the long run, Redford’s output seems like a brief overstretched to characteristic size, one thing extra suited to stage than display regardless of the director’s ungainly efforts to make her outing really feel cinematic amid a fairly mountainous setting and a handsomely appointed home the place nearly all of the story unfolds. However extra awkward than something is the yarn’s miscalculated keenness to shock with solely a handful of half-baked concepts of little substance.