Marionette

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Marionette
"There's talk of everything from self-fulfilling prophecies to Schrodinger's Cat but no amount of cod philosophy and cod psychology can distract from the fact that this is a very familiar formula." | Photo: Rock Salt Releasing

The idea of a heroine with an increasingly shaky hold on sanity is a familiar device in thrillers and it's put to serviceable if overburdened use in Elbert van Strien's Marionette - showing at the Cannes Marche this week. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten) is newly arrived at an (I think) Aberdonian child psychotherapy practice, although it's best not to dwell to much on the geography here or you'll go as mad as Marianne's patients. The set-up is all Georgian architecture wood panelled rooms that have a hint of portent and a handy basement, and this is where she will gradually learn her predecessor Dr McVittie (Peter Mullan, sadly in little more than a cameo) lost control of his own mind.

Fans of this sort of tale will be unsurprised to learn that away from the flat grey light of Scotland, Marianne had a previous, sunnier life, complete with, in even less of a surprise, its own tragedy. Back in the here and now, she's chiefly dealing with two patients - a fearful little girl who is obsessed with the weather and whom van Strien wastes little time with and Manny (Elijah Wolf), who draws disturbing pictures of accidents and crashes, often depicting a pig. Most importantly, he says he can, "Make things happen", something that McVittie came to believe and that Marianne is also soon buying into, even as she embarks on a tentative relationship with local bearded hunk Kieran (Emun Elliott).

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There's talk of everything from self-fulfilling prophecies to Schrodinger's Cat but no amount of cod philosophy and cod psychology can distract from the fact that this is a very familiar formula. Everybody likes a good plot twist, but you can have too much of a good thing and van Strien and his co-writer Ben Hopkins throw so many loops around this story that the characters struggle to breathe. It seems the characters are here to service the plot rather than the other way around and while that makes sense on one level, it also makes for choppy viewing that's hard to connect with, especially once the flashbacks come into play.

Reuten does her best to keep Marianne's slide from the hard and fast rules of reality believable but it's such a rapid manoeuvre it's a big ask. There's also not enough of her interacting with Manny near the start of the film, which means the tension has no time to build gradually so it has to be increasingly hammered home by the atmospheric but overused sound design from Marco Vermaas.

Van Strien has some interesting ideas about fate and self-determination, but they're so welded to the familiar potboiler plot they can't break free.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2020
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A therapist starts to doubt reality after a 10-year-old tells her he can predict her future.

Director: Elbert van Strien

Writer: Ben Hopkins, Elbert van Strien

Starring: Peter Mullan, Thekla Reuten, Rebecca Front, Bill Paterson, Emun Elliott, Sam Hazeldine, Pearl Chanda, Marnie Baxter, John Scougall, Elisabet Johannesdottir, Craig McDonald-Kelly, Jochum ten Haaf, Geoffrey Newland, Elijah Wolf, Julian Nest

Year: 2020

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: Netherlands, Luxembourg, UK

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