By Anthony Wetmore
Director Ari Aster’s debut feature film, Hereditary shines a strange light onto family drama through a horror tinted lens. Toni Collette portraying the erratic nature of grief against an ever dissolving and changing reality is worth the ticket price alone, but that does not necessarily a good movie make.
Throughout the first hour or so of the film, we are privy to what could very well be a conventional dark familial drama, activated by the death of an estranged mother. The tensions rise and falls to deliver some truly intriguing moments; but moments they remain due to odd pacing and a television-like jumping from idea to idea.
The script sometimes lacks a depth in plotting, which muddles the tone of the film overall, highlighting certain sections with laughter as opposed to a gasp. Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Leftovers) is introduced halfway into the film as a fellow griever, she gives a fantastic subtle performance; though she merely serves as another device in order to build to the final moment that caps this film in such a strange way.
Overall, Aster presents a highly stylized film that is pretty and visually intricate. The framing device of the miniatures that Collette’s character crafts for an exhibition is one that makes for a sense of fragile vulnerability; it also makes sections of the film feel as though they are vignettes presented on the same theme as opposed to a cohesive narrative with means to an end.
Without taking you down any dark strange twists that pepper this dread picture, the button placed on the finale feels like a gentle pin searching for the last bits of air and tension to release from the terrible balloon of grief and familial stress that began to deflate toward the latter half of Hereditary.
If you’re looking for a wholly new story here, this is not it, but the stellar camerawork and Collette’s break-downs will pull you in enough to sustain your attention. If I may, I suggest giving Aster’s short “The Strange Thing About The Johnsons” a watch, as it is wrought with tension and does not overstay its welcome.