Directed & written by Jake Mahaffy.
Starring Julia Ormond, Emma Draper, John Bach, Nancy Brunning, Cohen Holloway, Ava Keane, Gina Laverty
Ellie (Emma Draper) returns to her childhood home very pregnant and hoping to have to peace and quiet in order to finish writing her new book. She isn’t expecting to see her mother Ivy (Julia Ormond) there, because she has just left her boyfriend, Ellie has no place else to go. The longer Ellie stays in the home, as Ivy packs it up to be sold, dark secrets from Ellie’s past resurface involving the adoption of a young girl named Cara (Ava Keane) and her father’s odd experiments he conducted in his lab.
REUNION is an odd film. It seems to be a mish-mash of psychological horror, ghost story, and late in the game, injects hints of body horror into the narrative just for shits and giggles. The setting for this story is extremely effective as Ellie and Ivy make their way through boxes and boxes of packed things in order to attempt to get by doing their day to day activities. The stress of moving is an overwhelming one, and the fact that this is a house being packed away is both rich in symbolism regarding a past both Ivy and Ellie want to leave behind them and the chaos of making sense out of a lifetime of accumulated stuff. It is interesting that Ellie chooses to come to this place of unrest to find some kind of peace when it represents anything but still and quiet.
As a psychological thriller, REUNION works as both Ormond and Draper deliver strong and restrained performances. Both are educators and used to thinking things through in a meticulous and scientific way. This isn’t a warm household, but one that analyzes feelings and emotions and comes to a logical conclusion to it all. It makes for a conflicted performance given Ellie’s pregnancy and Ivy’s added stress from the move as both seems to act irrational and emotionally, yet try to explain it all away scientifically. When the spirit of Cara shows up, it unsettles Ellie, as it reminds her of a tragedy from her youth, but Ivy’s answer to that is to shield emotions and explain it all away. The entire film seems to highlight this contrast between the spiritual and resonant emotions like guilt, sorrow, and loss and an educated distance from it all that seems to have haunted this family from the very beginning.
I think the problem with REUNION is that it is a story with an awful lot of secrets. Everyone seems to remember these tragic childhood events in their own way, placing blame on someone different. While there may be some kind of haunting going on, it’s not your typical haunted house movie with moving doors and creaking floorboards, though there are a scant few scenes of that. Then at the very last minute, there’s this weird mad science angle that I don’t know if I fully understand. The film sort of tosses all of these truths in the air in the end, leaving the viewer to latch on to which one they want to believe, and then ending with no firm resolution.
The acting is wonderful. The mood and atmosphere really works. This is an above average produced film with all sorts of interesting things going on like little snippets of Ellie’s book being read set to slides of odd drawings of scientific oddities. But I don’t know if all of the puzzle pieces fit in REUNION and was left unsatisfied with the way it all ended.