Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the horror/drama POOR AGNES by director Navin Ramaswaran. To best describe the story, I will turn to the IMDB plot summary:
“A serial killer and her next victim form an unexpected relationship.”
“Men murder whores, women murder their babies; what does that make me?”
Thus are the first words spoken by our lead actress, which perfectly sets the tone. In one line they had me hooked as it was so callous, yet also so inviting at the same time. It also serves as a bit of a setup to one of the overarching themes of this feature, identity.
From a thematic standpoint, this can be a fairly difficult film to watch as we are seeing one person attempt to remove the identity of another. Obviously, this is not something to be taken lightly and they smartly never make fun of the situation while also refraining from judging the characters’ actions. This makes the portrait of their relationship all the more chilling as this perspective feels almost clinical as opposed to cinematic.
Granted, none of this would be worth a thing if not for the rock solid performances by our leads. First of all, Lora Burke is absolutely imposing as Agnes. There is a certain emptiness to the character that she captures with an eerie ease. At one point in the movie, someone tells her that there is nothing behind her eyes, and as soon as it was said I realized that this was a spot on assessment. The few times we see any feeling come into her, it is a cool rage that is reminiscent of a pot just about to boil over.
Her victim, Mike, becomes the target of much of her anger, but not in a traditional fashion. Instead of taking out her rage on him through violence, she begins to play mind games with him to try to mold him into the image she desires. Robert Notman, who plays Mike, does a stellar job of turning from someone who seems well in control of himself to a person who no longer recognizes his own identity. As he begins to lose himself, we see him struggle to maintain some sense of humanity against the seemingly impenetrable force. At times, he seems almost remorseful that he has allowed himself to be manipulated, yet still unable to break free.
The only issue that I had with this piece is that the ending felt a bit forced. Given the nature of the characters and events up until that point, the resolution was too cinematic for my liking. The final shot was pretty darn good, but how we got to that point discounted some of what we knew about certain characters which I found to be a bit frustrating.
All in all, this is a bang up psychological study that is brought to life by some fantastic performances. While the ending felt a little forced, the rest of this feature is so chilling that it will leave audiences something to mull over long after the credits stop. Fans of films like Capture Kill Release (2016)and Chained (2012) should make it a point of seeing this picture.
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