Ever since The VVitch was released in 2015, slow-burning historical films with a heavy dose of the occult have been releasing more and more, and trust me, I am here for it. There is something about the 1600s to the mid-1800s time period that makes everything seem unknown and terrifying. Maybe it’s the deadly religious fanaticism that took root in the period. THE LAST THING MARY SAW features that dark time period dotted with some LGBTQ+ themes and some great actors, but is it enough to make it worthy of VVitch praise?
THE LAST THING MARY SAW is written and directed by Edoardo Vitaletti and stars Judith Anna Roberts, Stefanie Scott, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Rory Culkin. The film follows Mary and her family’s maid, Eleanor. They have fallen in love and are in a forbidden relationship that gets found out and they are punished but it doesn’t stop them. They rendezvous in the chicken coop thanks to a cooperative farmhand that can be bribed with bread until they are found once again by the tyrannical and terrifying family matriarch, who makes sure that Eleanor becomes mute. After the Matriarch’s mysterious death, everything comes to a head when a mysterious intruder comes to the home during the day of silent mourning.
However clear that synopsis may be, the movie is anything but. There were moments when I had to rewind because I had no idea what was happening. The occultism is both blatant and hidden so much that you can’t decipher what was going on. While the relationship between Mary and Eleanor is the basis and the catalyst for the whole film, their relationship is underplayed and underused. I don’t mean we need to see blatant sex scenes or anything like that. The small moments between the women were subtle and nice when they happened. It just seems that the film cares more about the reactions of the family to the relationship than what it means to the women and what it was like for them to be kept apart. With the focus so hard on what Mary’s little brother thinks of the relationship instead of the pain they feel apart, the motivations for what comes later hold less meaning.
THE LAST THING MARY SAW is shot beautifully, with most of the light in the movie coming from candles and firelight which creates a dark and dream-like quality to the movie. Visually, this feature was great, and the acting was incredible. Fuhrman, Scott, and Culkin were the stars of the show but Roberts really brought it in terms of creepiness. The sound mixing was a little too much at times like it was forcing tension in places where the dialogue and cinematography couldn’t keep up. It made certain moments seem disjointed in tone.
The story has a lot of potential with a slow start that speeds up a bit in the middle but loses steam and direction towards the end. The big crescendo of events, in the end, occurs almost too quickly after a long lead-up. When the big creepy reveal drops, it is like a bottle rocket, one quick pop with a trail of disappointment trailing behind it.
THE LAST THING MARY SAW isn’t a bad movie but I just wish the same amount of love and attention that was put into the first two-thirds of the film was put into the end to make it well-rounded. I would also like to add that I don’t expect people in the 1800’s to accept a lesbian relationship, but I just don’t like feeling as if the writer was glorifying punishment for being gay and that’s how the ending felt to me. THE LAST THING MARY SAW has a lot of potential and some good actors, but – ultimately – the writing fails them.
THE LAST THING MARY SAW, premieres exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, January 20.
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