"This role is something quite new for Bosworth, and she handles it with considerable aplomb"

Opening as the kind of taut mystery that Alfred Hitchcock excelled at, Unconscious presents us with an injured man (Wes Bentley) lying in a bed in an enormous house that's almost entirely devoid of stuff. Fragments of memory flit through his mind: an impact, a shattered windscreen, a blond-haired girl screaming in the back seat. Otherwise, he can remember nothing. An elegant, Hitchcockian blonde (Kate Bosworth) soothes him, tends to him. She's his wife, she says. She's happy to take care of him; that's what people who love each other do. But something feels wrong. There are cats in the house; he doesn't feel like he ever owned a cat. There are odd noises, things glimpsed out of the corner of his eye. And that's all before he gathers the strength to go down into the basement.

The first half of this film is too slow, the second half too fast; the ending feels rushed and the final twist tacked-on. Nevertheless, there's something about it that lingers, perhaps because it's packing rather more mysteries than are clear on the surface. Rooms filled with strips of film and photo albums suggest an obsession with memory and the past that predates our hero's accident, but just what is it they're trying to capture, and why does the rest of the house feel so empty? Why is a small town police detective so intrigued by the smashed up, apparently abandoned car by the side of the road? Who might have been a prisoner in this house before, and why? Not everything is as easy to unravel as climactic explanations might make it seem.

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There have been any number of films about women trapped by dangerous men. The role reversal here, as the mysterious woman proves more than capable of overcoming our hero physically, is handled with a refreshing lightness but hints at something deeper. From the start, Polish's camera objectifies Bentley as he hobbles around the house, shirtless and supporting himself against the walls. Although he is ostensibly the main character, a great deal of the film is seen through the woman's gaze, and at times even he sees to lose sight of his potential agency. It's a story driven by her desires, and whilst these might be dismissed as politically recidivist, she's more complex than her demands suggest, to the point where one wonders if her desires are not themselves delusions, a conventional means of interpreting something still more fundamental. From her perfectly coiffured hair to her neatly ordered kitchen - and surgical instruments - she's all about control.

Though the mystery element has something in common with Bosworth's previous work in The Girl In The Park, this role is something quite new for her, and she handles it with considerable aplomb. Despite her strong resemblance to Nicole Kidman's Mrs. Coulter in The Golden Compass, her performance has deeper roots, harking back to classics like The Nanny with Bette Davis, and she dominates the film. Faced with this, Bentley does well to hold onto our sympathies despite the fact we know nothing about his character. His growing concern for the girl in the car, his determination to find out what has become of her, may be hints at his own damaged nature.

Although it overplays its hand, Unconscious remains an interesting little film with a lot of promise. It's beautifully shot, alternating between cool blues and warm golden tones, and the sometimes overly repetitive score is balanced out by great sound work. Polish gets a lot out of his cast and with this film he really seems to have found his voice; it will be interesting to see what he does next.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2015
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Unconscious packshot
A man awakens with vague memories of a car accident and grows suspicious of the woman who says she is his wife.

Director: Michael Polish

Writer: Amy Kolquist, Mike Le

Starring: Kate Bosworth, Wes Bentley, Olivia Rose Keegan, Shashawnee Hall, Mia Barron

Year: 2015

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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