Eye For Film >> Movies >> Talk to Me (2023) Film Review
Talk to Me
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
What on Earth possessed you to do that? A phrase almost any adult has, at some point or another, wanted to ask of their younger selves. In their crafty, and well-crafted debut film from twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou use possession in both its literal and figurative sense to explore ideas of teenage loneliness, grief and peer pressure.
This may be the Philippou’s first feature outing but the Aussie duo are well-established YouTubers, posting videos that often blend horror and comedy under the name RackaRacka - they currently have almost seven million subscribers, which means they already have a ready made audience for Talk To Me. They certainly retain their ability to shock with outbreaks of bloody violence in this entry in Sundance’s Midnight section, but it is carefully underpinned by an exploration of modern teenage life.
Beginning with a bloody prologue which hints at the film’s supernatural element and the further violence to come, the Philippous get stuck into the action rather than belabouring any backstory.
Soon afterwards we meet Mia (Sophie Wilde), a 17-year-old who is still grieving two years after the death of her mum. Distant from her dad Max (Marcus Johnson, whose sketchily drawn character is the film’s weakest element), she spends most of her time hanging out with her best mate Jade (Alexandra Jensen) and Jade’s little brother Riley (Joe Bird) and their understanding single mum Sue (Miranda Otto). Their friendship is complicated, in the way teenage life can be, by the fact that Jade is dating Daniel (Otis Dhanji), who was once Mia’s first boyfriend. All of which means that Mia is more than ready to take a risk if it means she might become the centre of attention and/or forget about her emotional woes for a bit.
The escapist risk comes courtesy of a ceramic embalmed hand, which is proving to be a hit at the teenagers’ parties, glimpsed in phone footage. Those who touch the hand and welcome in a spirit, become possessed - although the experience comes with the health warning that the “door must be closed” before 90 seconds is up or trouble will ensue.
Like a drug, the experience proves to be addictive, not just on a personal level but as a collective experience. The Philippous capture the magnetic group effect of this sort of gathering, the way peers egg one another one but also often ignore signs that things aren’t quite right - as the old adage goes, when you fall down as an adult, people tend to look concerned and help you up, when you do that as a teenager, others are more inclined to point and laugh. Strong editing from Geoff Lamb shows how the individual experiences of this blur into a consolidated mutual high of sorts, as Mia puts it after she’s been possessed, “I felt like I was glowing”.
Messing with the spirits, of course, always has consequences and here it is Riley who reaps a physical whirlwind, while it’s Mia’s psychological state which starts to deteriorate. In a clear parallel with drug addiction, she begins to hallucinate and becomes increasingly paranoid. As the tensions between the real and the imagined grow for Mia, there’s a suggestion that she could present as much of a real life threat as anything conjured from the spirit world. That world, incidentally, is realised in enjoyably gory detail, with excellent effects and make-up work.
The reason the film works so well is in its well-established teenage relationships - with the Philippous showing the attraction of being in with the cool kids and that the dangers this presents are particularly acute for those, like Mia, who are already emotionally vulnerable or, like Riley, desperate to be included in an older peer group. The teenage cast is uniformly excellent, from Wilde, who is unlikely to be returning to TV work after this, Jensen and Bird through to smaller supporting roles from Zoe Terakes and Chris Alosio in the teenagers peer group. A dark little debut that doesn't soft pedal its ending.Reviewed on: 24 Jan 2023