The Return

The Return


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The last 10 years will be remembered as the period of ghosts. After decades of neglect, they are back with a vengeance, but only Japanese and South American directors seem to know how to handle them.

The Return can’t make up its mind whether it is a ghost story, a possession story, a Texas psycho bumpkin story, or a maiden in distress story. As a result, all these ingredients are put into the pot, with a spoonful of Final Destination and a bottle of Jack Daniels, simmered for an-hour-and-a-half and then left to confuse.

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Filmed in blanched colour to emphasise the backwoods nature of small town Texas, where you can’t get away from rusty farm equipment, pick up trucks and moody guys in cowboy boots, blue jeans and tee shirts, The Return concentrates on Joanna (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who used to live with her dad (Sam Shepard) in these parts. When she was 11 something happened. She became violent and started cutting herself with knives. Also, she kept hearing a man’s voice. “Don’t be afraid,” the voice said. “I just want to talk to you.”

Joanna grows up and moves to St Louis where she works for a big industrial company. Given the opportunity to come to Texas to make a sales pitch to some other big industrial company, she leaps at the chance. It’s like coming home, even for a day, except her day lasts for weeks and you wonder what they are thinking back at the office.

She ends up for no particular reason in the scruffy hamlet (Texan equivalent) of La Salle. She has never been here before and yet everything seems familiar. She starts seeing things and having daymares about going to a particular bar and being accosted and becoming aware of a tall, silent, unshaven hunk of fortysomething manhood, called Terry Stahl (Peter O’Brien), who has A Past, involving the death of his beautiful wife 15 years earlier.

Everything about La Salle is reminiscent of a natural occurrence in the slasher horror flick genre, that country folk are sick in the head, although this is different, a psychological thriller with supernatural overtones. There is a connection between Joanna and Terry’s dead wife, but what? Flash, flash, flash! Memories, sightings, re-enactions and voices are driving Joanna mental, while Terry is too busy looking sexy in a Wuthering Heights Goes Waco kind of way to be of much help.

Eventually, as screenwriter Adam Sussman attempts to fit the disparate pieces of a farfetched storyline together, you know it’s nonsense and the moment is lost. Actually, it was lost quite a while back.

Gellar is tiny. She shouldn’t be allowed out alone in the biggest state of the Union. She is not an expressive performer. She has a look. She uses it all the time. Instead of acting.

The look says, “Why did you tread on my kitten?”

Reviewed on: 11 Jan 2007
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There’s a ghost in the mirror in a small Texan town where memories of a murder haunt an innocent young woman.
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Director: Asif Kapadia

Writer: Adam Sussman

Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Peter O’Brien, Sam Shepard, Darrian McClanahan, Adam Scott, Kate Beahan, Robert Wilson, Erinn Allison, Bonnie Gallup, Brent Smiga

Year: 2006

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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