“Can people come back?” asks Mia, the cute little girl whose increasingly creepy antics are the crux of this atmospheric premiere of Australia’s Midnight. Back from the dead, that is, and it’s a macabre thought that Daina Reid’s effective but perhaps overlong feature debut plays with rather enticingly, right to the end. Although the provocation may wear down commercial audiences hoping to find out one way or another, run rabbit run will find favor in auteur cinema and especially in the festival circuit.
Like many recent genre films with female leads, for example, Ari Aster’s Hereditary or Jennifer Kent’s the babadook — Reid’s film takes place at a time of recent bereavement or recent marital trauma. In this case, they are both: Sarah (), Mia’s mother, is dealing with the death of her father, but the hammer blow comes when her ex-husband announces that he and his new wife are trying for a baby, something she thought they had both plotted. line when they were a couple. Meanwhile, Mia has adopted a mysterious white rabbit, who seems to have appeared out of nowhere, and reacts violently when her mother unceremoniously tries to throw him over the garden fence.
Like the two aforementioned movies, run rabbit run it deliberately overlaps notions of reality and abstraction, and that confusion is only intensified when, immediately after her seventh birthday, Mia claims that Sarah is not her mother. The strangeness increases when Mia begins to insist that she is actually Sarah’s sister Alice, who disappeared when she too was seven, and demands to meet Sarah’s estranged mother, Joan (Greta Scacchi), now suffering from dementia. . Mia’s behavior spills over into school, where her teachers wisely note the strange and angry drawings she’s been making, the dark and morbid kind that, in real life, would probably have social services hanging around with a team. SWAT.
Lily LaTorre, who plays Mia, is an absolute find in this regard, and her protean and impressively unreadable performance is the engine that drives the film (Cameron Bright as the young upstart in Jonathan Glazer’s riveting 2004 reincarnation thriller). Birth comes to mind, although the result here is very different). But the film rests squarely on the shoulders of Succession star Snook, who does a lot of the heavy lifting, keeping us sympathetic until, and maybe even beyond, the point of revelation. The extraordinary performance of Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion casts a long shadow here; but as much as the mere mention of Roman Polanski’s name these days sends people into hives, his work there is not to be forgotten, and Snook is truly a match for that.
The main drawback of Reid’s film is its choppy tone: it frequently fades to black for no good reason, and in the last half hour this tends to suggest that the ending will be more impromptu and unsatisfying than it actually is. Similarly, there are certain tropes from Australian trauma dramas – family homes left untouched and unoccupied until the leads return there – that don’t travel well. But run rabbit run has a poetic resonance that, while not exactly a close relative of Sam Raimi’s 2009 horror film Drag Me to Hellmakes for an equally nightmarish essay on action and consequence, not to mention the isolation and tribulations that come with single parenthood.