jing’s review published on Letterboxd:
i guess the main reason why a lot of people (myself included) watched this movie was the cast. it’s not every day that you get tom holland, bill skarsgård, eliza scanlen and robert pattinson, to name a few, all in one movie. i suppose with this bunch of outstanding actors (with many arguably at the peak of their careers) most of us automatically assumed that this film has got to be outstanding too. even though i’m not exactly disappointed, i was expecting something different after watching the trailer and especially when i saw the 138 minute runtime.
dark and bloody movies have never been my thing, but the few bloody scenes weren’t necessarily what made me enjoy this less (although i did have to cover up my screen a few times hahah).
the story takes some time to unfold, and the plot definitely takes its time with exploring characters’ backgrounds. despite showing us where each person comes from and the hardships that eventually turned them into the character we see on screen in the “present”, some connections were incredibly hard for me to follow. i had to pause a few times to comprehend who is related to whom through what. i suppose that’s where the narrator comes in?
at first, i didn’t mind the narration at all, on the contrary, i actually liked it. i saw a review mention how movies with a narrator have a certain charm and mood to them, and i couldn’t agree more. but as the film went on, so did the narration, and i couldn’t find any intention behind it other than to provide us with further information and to help us understand the sometimes complicated connections. the movie is an adaption of a novel, and while i think i see where the idea of a narrator might be coming from (it does feel a little mysterious), in the end, it’s so much more appealing to see emotions play out on a character’s face instead of additionally hearing them over a voiceover, at least in this case. (“show, not tell.”) i couldn’t help comparing this to wes anderson’s narrators, and while it’s not the same genre, i wish this movie would’ve left out the storyteller or included him more organically in the film as a whole.
halfway through the movie, i really started feeling the runtime. i hadn’t really been able to connect with characters, and something about the film just felt so tedious. i still couldn’t figure out where the story was heading, was it just a story about two rural towns and its worn down, incredulously religious inhabitants? was it a movie trying to suggest that religion is bad? the sometimes off pacing wasn’t helping either, one minute i was almost bored, the next i was somehow captivated again. it also took the movie some time to properly establish a main character, and once it finally did, a lot of the first hour felt practically unnecessary to me personally.
nevertheless, i really liked the colors and the visual tone of this movie. somehow, everything felt so nostalgic, especially in combination with the lighting and production design, which really stood out to me personally. not to mention the chilling yet comforting soundtrack (possibly my favorite thing about the whole film). the happy birthday variation more or less gave me chills every time it started playing, and the additional songs that were chosen just perfectly set the atmosphere. and. the. PERFORMANCES. this was actually the first film starring tom holland that i’ve seen, and while the first half of his screen time felt solid to me, the last 30 minutes of his performance were truly incredible. and ELIZA!! she absolutely killed it. i’m biased here, but rob’s performance saved this movie for me in some ways. i saw a review mention how the script and direction almost gone too over the top with his character, which in turn took us out of the movie and shifted our attention to his performance, which made me realize that i was more captivated by robert pattinson’s acting than by what his character was trying to get across.
all in all, while it’s a movie relatively easily accessible and worth watching, if only for the cast alone, to me, the film and story lack consistency and a more fleshed out and clearer narrative. i’m torn between 3 and 3.5 stars, so might change the rating later.
i have no idea how this got to long, so thanks if you actually read all of this! means the world to me