Writer-director Luke Shanahan makes his feature debut with this enjoyably strange film that at times feels reminiscent of the work of David Cronenberg, at times reminiscent of Nicolas Roeg, and yet still remains an impressively unique vision. I was initially rather unimpressed, sitting there quietly as the end credits rolled, but the more thought I gave it, the more I liked what I had just seen.
Adelaide Clemens plays a young woman named Maude. Maude is a twin to a missing sister, and she returns home after a particularly vivid dream leaves her convinced that she knows the whereabouts of her sibling. She doesn't waste much time in beginning her search, accompanied by her sister's fiance (Alex Russell) and a local cop (Jonny Pasvolsky) who believes that the fiance had a hand in things. They all end up encountering a couple (Nerida, played by Veerle Baetens, and husband Keith, played by Charles Mayer) who may have been among the last people to see Maude's sister alive.
More of a mood piece than anything else, Rabbit is an intriguing film that shows Shanahan to be a dab hand at the slow burn. Things seem to build in intensity without much changing at all, thanks to the scenes showing how everything is wearing Maude's mind down, perhaps to a breaking point.
Clemens is great in her role. Well, she's great in both roles, but one has a lot less screentime than the other. Her performance never edges towards hysterical, but she obviously becomes more and more disturbed and flustered as the situation unfolds around her. Russell and Pasvolsky both do well enough in their roles, supporting Clemens while also providing the required potential suspect/red herring strand, and Baetens and Mayer are quietly unsettling, far too neat and polite to not be hiding something.
While the performances and mood work well throughout, Shanahan falters when it comes to injecting elements to provide viewers with a satisfying third act. There are many decent individual moments, but nothing as powerful or affecting as I was hoping for. It's okay to sit and watch a film that doesn't provide you with all of the answers, and I do, but quite another to sit and watch a film that seems to almost gleefully swerve away from them at the last minute (as it feels here).
Overall, this is well worth your time. Shanahan is a name I will be keeping an eye on for the next few years, especially if he continues to make such canny casting choices and retains his impressive instincts when it comes to marrying up visuals with excellent score choices (the music here is by Michael Darren, who also deserves a mention, and there it is). You may love this film, you may end up hating it, but it's almost impossible to simply dismiss it.
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