Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Distorted probably isn't the stepping stone back to stardom that Ricci needs, but her performance in it demonstrates why she still deserves to be seen as a serious contender."

What happened to Christina Ricci? After a promising career as a child and some great work as a teenager in the likes of Monster, she made a couple of bad choices and ended up spending the next decade in low-budget flops, gradually recovering her credentials through television work. Psychological thriller Distorted probably isn't the stepping stone back to stardom that she needs, but her performance in it demonstrates why she still deserves to be seen as a serious contender.

Here, Ricci plays Lauren, who is married to Russell (Brendan Fletcher) and living in the city amidst intolerable stresses. She suffers from bipolar disorder and is continually afraid that someone will break into their home. Seeking to make things easier for her, Russell suggests that they move out into the suburbs, specifically to a new luxury apartment building where the security is good and they can enjoy some peace and quiet. It seems like the perfect solution - until Lauren begins to experience hallucinations and comes to suspect that something in the new building is behind them.

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The theme of a woman discovering something but nobody taking her seriously is an old one in cinema but is given more weight here by the complicating factor of Lauren's mental illness. On the one hand, it puts her in a much weaker position because everybody who knows about it - including Russell - grants her less credibility as a result. She also has to face self-doubt, despite recognising that the new experiences she's having are not a normal part of her illness - could she be developing some new mental health problem? Then there's the disquieting possibility that what's happening to her is actually happening to everyone in the building but her differently functioning brain makes her more aware of it. In that case, shouldn't she be warning people, regardless of what they think of her as a result?

Enter John Cusack as a hardcore internet conspiracy theorist who may or may not also be right when he suggests that our heroine is caught up in a covert experiment in mind control. His paranoid behaviour is immediately identifiable as problematic for a woman whose damaged confidence makes it easy to be pressured into accepting other people's passionately expressed ideas, but Lauren is not completely without caution. She recognises that he could be mentally ill himself and also considers the possibility that he could be part of a conspiracy against her. The trouble is, who can she trust?

Ultimately, this is TV movie stuff, and there's nothing about the narrative that elevates it. Ricci is impressive, however, working hard with what she's got to create a character we can believe in even when what's happening to and around her stretches credulity. Credit should also go to production designer Kathy McCoy for the choice of an apartment building that actually looks luxurious and liveable instead of just another anonymous tower with expensive carpets. This gives the film a bit more personality than it might have had. It's still not a dazzling piece of work but it's worth seeking out for Ricci fans.

Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2019
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Distorted packshot
A mentally ill woman becomes convinced that her apartment building is interfering with her mind - but could she be right?

Director: Rob W King

Writer: Arne Olsen

Starring: Christina Ricci, Brendan Fletcher, Vicellous Shannon, John Cusack

Year: 2018

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Canada


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