The Twin

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Twin
"Most of the heavy lifting here is done by the actors, especially Palmer."

In recent years, Americans haven’t been having much luck when visiting Northern Europe. This time it’s Finland where our expat heroes find themselves, though to be fair, one of them does have a connection there, having inherited a large house in a remote village where the locals seems to have nothing better to do than stand around and stare suspiciously. What’s more, they have reason to get away from their old lives, having gone through the trauma of losing a child. Anthony (Steven Cree) hopes that the move will allow them to start rebuilding and get back to the way they used to be. Rachel (Teresa Palmer) has been hesitant about it, but she’ll be happy as long as it works out for little Elliot (Tristan Ruggeri).

Before going further it’s worth noting that The Twin was conceived by an Finnish writer/director team, so there’s some humour in the depiction of the conservatively dressed villagers with their curious rituals and primitive customs, and this film knowingly exploits the expectations audiences will have of such a scenario for the sake of misdirection. There’s a lot of that about in a film which works hard to preserve its central mystery by throwing in as many subsidiary ones as it can think of. Viewers may find themselves frustrated by this at times, though there is an element of dark meta humour to it, and of course it serves as a great calling card, illustrating director Taneli Mustonen’s fluent grasp of genre tropes.

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Most of the heavy lifting here is done by the actors, especially Palmer, carrying the weight of a mother’s grief and projecting everything onto young Elliot in an unfamiliar landscape which seems full of potential dangers. Those dangers are not just material. After the boy (also very well played) makes a curious discovery in the house, something about him changes. There’s a suggestion that he may be in communion with his dead brother, but Rachel’s mysterious neighbour Helen (Barbara Marten) – also an outsider and the only person who offers her friendship – suggests that some other, much more sinister force may be trying to take possession of the boy.

The film is attractively shot and Mustonen works hard to build up atmosphere, but somewhat overplays his hand in endeavouring to set up multiple narratives, so that when the truth is revealed it feels like a bit of an anti-climax. It’s also unfortunate that this key scene depends heavily on Cree, who is the least capable of the actors and whose performance distracts awkwardly from Palmer’s work.

There’s a solid enough idea at the core of this film but it might have been developed in much more interesting ways. Once the cat is out of the bag, Mustonen doesn’t know what to do with it. The Twin has some interesting things to say about why people connect with the horror genre and how it can help us to process overwhelming experiences, but falls short of its potential in terms of the story it’s trying to tell. Nevertheless, there’s some really good work here and as long as you’re willing to be patient with it, it is worth a watch.

Reviewed on: 02 May 2022
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The Twin packshot
A mother needs to confront the unbearable truth about her surviving twin son.

Director: Taneli Mustonen

Writer: Aleksi Hyvärinen, Taneli Mustonen

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Steven Cree, Barbara Marten, Tristan Ruggeri

Year: 2022

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: Finland

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