22 Nov 23
Tilda Swinton, Joseph Mydell, Zinnia Davies-Cooke, Carly Davies, Alfie Sankey-Green
The Eternal Daughter is an electrifying change of pace for writer-director Joanna Hogg. Working with key collaborator Tilda Swinton, this is the filmmaker embracing a classic English storytelling form – the country estate ghost story – but infusing it with the personal and profound.
From indie powerhouse A24, who swept the board at the 2023 Oscars, The Eternal Daughter is a companion piece to Hogg's The Souvenir films – you don't have to have seen either film to follow what's going on – with Swinton playing the dual role of the now grown-up filmmaker Julie Hart (played by Swinton's daughter Honor in The Souvenir films) and her mother, Rosalind.
Julie takes her mother to Moel Famau, an isolated Welsh hotel that has a link to Rosalind's past. The trip is ostensibly to celebrate her mother's birthday but Julie has an ulterior motive: to ask her mother to be the subject of her next film.
With the pair possibly being the only guests in the dilapidated estate, however, the difficult conversation is further hindered by a series of increasingly disorientating events.
Leaning into classic spooky stories on both page (M.R James, Rudyard Kipling's They) and screen (Jack Clayton's The Innocents, Jacques Tourneur's Night Of The Demon), Hogg takes the tropes of classic ghost yarns – creaking floorboards, whistling winds, rusty door hinges, figures in windows – and allies them to a personal, perceptive, poignant study of shifting mother and daughter dynamics.
In particular, she looks at how parents and offspring shape each other in obvious and almost imperceptible, intangible ways.
The decision for Swinton to play both roles – there's no digital trickery here, just the command and confidence of Hogg's craft – is an inspired one, a neat comment on how we often see ourselves in our parents.
Completely immersing herself in both roles, Swinton isn't showy or flashy, sometimes finding a mannerism or expression for Julie or Rosalind then subtly alluding to it with the other character. This is Swinton working at the peak of her considerable powers.
Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, The Eternal Daughter also sees Hogg working at the top of her game, building a thick, heady atmosphere via Jovan Adjer's rich soundscapes and Stéphane Collonge's evocative production design.
The perfect spooky yarn for a dark winter night, Hogg's latest haunts you long after the credits roll. Ian Freer
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