Review: Relic


A visit to your grandmother should be fun and heart-warming. Whether it’s just to have a short chat, to enjoy a nice meal or to celebrate Christmas, it always has to be an enjoyable time. That’s what Kay and Sam had in mind when they visited Edna, Kay’s mum and Sam’s grandmother. However, that’s not what they got at all. No, if you watch the stunning Relic from writer/director Natalie Erika James, then you will know that they wished they could have remembered their visit differently.

The curse of growing old

Their trip starts like any other. Ready to cuddle up, share stories and to eat delicious food. However, when Kay (Emily Mortimer) and Sam (Bella Heathcote) learn that Edna (Robyn Nevin) is missing, the family visit takes a darker turn. Kay and Sam try to find their lost family member but what they see is certainly not what they were expecting. Bloody clothes, strange black mould on the walls and strange (human) noises are what they encounter. After having to deal with multiple search parties and many sleepless nights, Kay and Sam are perplexed when Edna turns up on the doorstep (or better said: in the kitchen). You would think that it would be a happy family reunion, but it’s everything but that.

It seems that Edna can’t remember where she had been, and while at first, that could have happened due to the shock, it’s clear that she has dementia. The disease is significantly evolving, and Edna’s mood swings become incredibly dark. She starts to harm herself and her family for no reason, she talks to people who aren’t there, and the dementia seems to be eviler than expected. Will Kay and Sam be able to save Edna from whatever she’s going through or will Edna’s disappearance have a much darker and lasting impact than initially thought?

Emily Mortimer as Kay and Bella Heathcote as Sam in Relic
Emily Mortimer as Kay and Bella Heathcote as Sam in Relic
(Source: IMDb)

A typical horror movie combined with some unique elements.

We can hear you say it. ‘Another horror movie’ and ‘what makes this movie different than any other horror movies before?’. Well, let us tell you. Relic isn’t just an ordinary horror film, and here’s why.

First of all, it’s because of the perplexing fact that Relic is just the debut feature of Erika James. Together with her co-writer Christian White (Creswick), she created a refreshing, unique and suspenseful movie with some very subtle elements to it. At first, the story itself seems straightforward. A missing family member turning back up and not knowing what she has done because of her dementia. The relationship between the three women is being tested. Not only because of the disease but also because of events from the past and plans for the future. However, there’s much more to this story than what meets the eye. We don’t want to say too much, but we dare to say that you probably didn’t see that climax coming.

The ‘dark versus light’ aspect of this movie is beautifully brought to the screen by the usage of mainly lamps, candles and the moonlight. Many of those lights will help you out discovering which darkness is lurking behind those closed doors. Cinematographer Charlie Sarroff (American Bistro) brings the unique story great to live thanks to the stunningly created perfect balance between the darkness and danger and the light and hope. Sarroff’s work is one of the reasons why this movie is a delightful one.

Robyn Nevin as Edna in Relic
Robyn Nevin as Edna in Relic
(Credit: Film Installation)

Three stunning leading ladies

Other reasons why you should watch this movie are outstanding acting performances. The most dazzling one is, without a doubt, the one from Nevin (Gods of Egypt). She rocks in this movie as the sinister grandmother you don’t want to hug. Edna feels like the dark version of the Mona Lisa. Wherever you and the camera go, her ice-cold and creepy look will follow you all around the room. Nevin knows how to make the audience feel very unease. She, and cast, doesn’t have a lot of lines and so the emotions and the story need to come to life with body language, and Nevin certainly succeeds in that.

In Relic, we see Mortimer (Mary) as her on-screen daughter who pleasingly portrays Kay. She brings the feelings of guilt, distress, hate and love emotionally and fabulously.  Thanks to her touching performance, the personal connection between the audience and the leading characters is being established instantly. Heathcote (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women) joins those two terrific women in a beautiful and captivating way. At first, her performance is just a nice one that doesn’t stand out in any way. However, the closer the unexpected climax is coming, the bigger, bolder and more memorable her performance becomes.

An excellent and tense watch

What makes from Relic such a great watch is the fact that it’s not a blood or gore horror story but instead a story that can happen to any of us (well, if you leave the cinematic aspects aside). There’s a chance that we might have to deal with dementia one day, and that’s why the movie is so appealing. If you combine that real-life element with the stunning dark performances, the well-balanced light versus dark relationship and wonderfully made cinematography, you know that this is an excellent debut movie.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Relic (Official trailer)

Also Read: Saint Maud (Review)

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