Queen of Earth Blu-ray review

Queen of Earth
Alex Ross Perry is a director who has been feted by Eureka! who, despite only having made a couple of low budget indie films went out on a limb with Listen Up Philip released last year and released it on their Masters of Cinema label. On viewing Queen of Earth this is a more serious film and does lack the humour and acerbic wit of Listen Up Philip. The themes of Queen of Earth are darker, but where the two films are comparable are with the complexity of human emotion and relationships. With a few more films under his belt and if he continues with these themes comparisons with Ingmar Bergman will probably be inevitable. And certainly with the evidence of both aforementioned films as well as the earlier first film, The Color Wheel (2011) that could well be the case and he could well prove to be the director who closest resembles the dark and complex side of human existence in a Bergman film.
The story of Queen of Earth revolves around Catherine (Elizabeth Moss) who has agreed to spend some time with her oldest friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) at a holiday lodge by a lake in order that she can compose herself and gather her thoughts together. Catherine has been going through a recent crisis following the suicide of her artist father and over the years had to learn to deal with her father’s affairs and philandering. She has also recently been dumped by her boyfriend and is dealing with that. However, she has the added problem that she has memories of spending time with her now ex-boyfriend at the holiday lodge which perhaps suggests that this isn’t the best place for her. She soon realises that the relationship between her and Virginia is fragile and only gets worse as time goes on. Added into the mix is the casual sex Virginia has with her neighbour, Rich who Catherine soon feels hostile towards. Rich is cocky and flippant which does nothing to endear him to Catherine. Soon Catherine seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Alex Ross Perry of course has a few precedents, Bergman aside. One can think of Catherine Deneuve’s nerve jangling paranoia and breakdown in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) or Juno Temple’s American visitor in Chile in Magic, Magic (2013) as examples of women facing a mental collapse and Moss’s performance as Catherine along with Perry’s own script is undoubtedly the films real strength and adds to this canon. There is a sense that the film very much wants to be a psychological thriller, like Repulsion with the viewer left wondering if Moss is a victim here or is it all in her own mind. Catherine withdraws into herself before she launches her measured but angry and well constructed contempt for Rich near the films conclusion and accuses him of being an animal and beneath contempt. However, the film does fail if the film is striving to being a psychological thriller. Yet the jangling score, very much suggesting a thriller by Keagan DeWitt doesn’t work and actually seems somewhat overwrought rather than underscoring Catherine’s mental collapse. Ross Perry is most assuredly a director to look out for in the future and the cinematography is equally stunning given the films budget.
Chris Hick

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