Marrowbone

**

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Marrowbone
"Sergio G Sánchez has lofty ambitions, involving guilt, coming of age and a whisper of the supernatural - but without the emergency brake he is usually offered by whichever director he is working with to rein him in."

Those going to see Marrowbone, could be forgiven if, during the first 15 minutes of the film, they think they have walked into the first part of the latest young adult franchise. The key components are here, a group of kids, dialogue that wouldn't be out of place in a Famous Five book and, before long, a scar on a forehead that leads to pain. Indeed, if Sergio G Sánchez had played it as a simpler psychological thriller for teens, things might have turned out better - not least because a younger audience would been considerably more immune to the cliches that begin to pile up like bones, rattling with the spirits of other, better movies.

Sánchez, stepping up from screenwriting on the likes of The Orphanage and The Impossible for his feature debut, has lofty ambitions, involving guilt, coming of age and a whisper of the supernatural - but without the emergency brake he is usually offered by whichever director he is working with to rein him in.

The style is certainly laid on thick as we meet the Marrowbone clan in the late 60s - although the period of the film never quite convinces as it should; one photograph of Richard Nixon is not enough to dismiss the dusty, CS Lewis feeling of the action. It is quickly established that the family (previously Fairburn) have fled to escape the shadow of their unpleasant father. Their creaky, isolated house looks too rundown for all but the least discerning ghost, and despite promises of a bright future from mum Rose (Nicola Harrison), and instantly befriending local librarian Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy), things take a bad turn for siblings Jack (George MacKay), Billy (Charlie Heaton), (Mia Goth) and little Sam (Matthew Stagg). Before the opening credits, mum has become terminally ill, making the children swear to stay together no matter what - even if it means hiding away until Jack's 21st birthday - and that's before their peace is shattered forever by a bullet.

This last event occurs in a scene that is cut adrift from the rest of the film, left dangling for much of the running time as Sánchez ladles in more and more elements, including a mysterious growing stain on the ceiling and the need to cover up all the mirrors in the house. To a point, the suspense element works. Sánchez and his cinematographer Xavi Giménez handle the atmosphere well and initial tension between what might be real and imagined, fed by intense performances all round, especially young cast member Stagg, and MacKay, promises to pay off.

But as the pressure builds, so do the plot convolutions. Sánchez is not content simply have a twist but attempts an intricate origami of folds, including a love triangle with handily placed local lawyer Tom (Kyle Soller), whose own string of problems arrives right on cue. Things become so elaborate that the film requires a succession of 'endings' in order to reconcile them all, each one less satisfying than the last until it arrives at a point - though bravely sold by the cast - from which laughter, not terror, emerges.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2017
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A young man and his four younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence.

Director: Sergio G Sánchez

Writer: Sergio G Sánchez

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, George MacKay, Kyle Soller, Robert Nairne, Matthew Stagg, Nicola Harrison, Laura Brook

Year: 2017

Runtime: 110 minutes

Country: Spain

Festivals:

SSFF 2017

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