Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sundance with Abe: The Wolf Hour

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the sixth time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can.

The Wolf Hour
Directed by Alistair Banks Griffin

Not going outside can truly affect a person’s psyche. Agoraphobia can trap people within a certain place, afraid to leave either because they worry what lies beyond their safe boundaries or they fear being surrounded by familiar elements they cannot handle. Not leaving home usually translates to not interacting with other people, which changes the way a person behaves, particularly in a manner that may prohibit them from being able to assess their own mental and physical health. In an age before electronics and technology that keep people connected from anywhere, being alone in an apartment with no visitors is a scenario with the potential to create great harm.

June Leigh (Naomi Watts) lives in her grandmother’s Bronx apartment in the summer of 1977, accepting grocery deliveries and silently sliding her rent under the door whenever the landlord approaches. As she watches news coverage of a serial killer stalking the city, June begins to unravel when her doorbell is rung multiple times a night with no one answering at the other end. Her friend Margot (Jennifer Ehle) comes to visit in an effort to help her, urging her that she must get back to work on the book she has been commissioned to write, a difficult effort considering the negative fallout of the publication of her previous work.

This is a lonely and relatively bleak film, one that finds June so trapped within herself that she is unable to open up even to those who arrive with open arms. She defends her state to Margot, accuses the man delivering her groceries of having nefarious intentions, and mistakenly trusts a police officer who quickly demonstrates that his help in finding her tormentor comes with strings attached. It’s difficult to connect with June because little of her character is established in any sort of positive way, and spending time with her within the confines of her apartment hardly feels inviting or appealing.

Watts is a terrific actress who does the best she can with this role, though it doesn’t offer much. Empathizing with her is not easy, and even just becoming invested in her staying sane and alive is cumbersome. This is a film that feels like it has to be headed somewhere that will make the journey worth it, yet it never finds that direction or purpose, merely sitting in misery with its protagonist in a lackluster setting.


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