Japanese-Australian actress Natalie Erika James skillfully embodies the terrible illness, Dementia, in this moving Australian horror-thriller. Without the usual ghost or monster; Natalie Erika James had her work cut out for her to keep the candles of tension burning and she doesn’t once falter. Furthermore, unlike many movies, James has only three central characters to carry the story. With just a mother, daughter and grandmother to carry the movie forwards, it would be easy – even understandable – to fall into a dull, drawn-out pace; with Relic, this is far from the case.
The Psychological Depths of Relic
Dementia is a taboo subject that has touched the lives and the hearts of many. To direct a horror film surrounding the topic was a bold and a brave thing for James to do. With 2020 being the offended generation, it’s insurmountable to even begin thinking of the backlash that the cast and director alike could have become subject to as a result of the very premise of Relic. However, while Relic doesn’t hold any punches or tiptoe around the illness; it does remain tasteful and even serves as an education for those blissfully unaware of the real-life horrors that go hand-in-hand with the mentally torturous condition.
Relic is a Creepy, Thought Provoking Ghost Train that Can Hit Close to Home
There’s something about the atmosphere of Relic that really draws you in and holds you in a taloned grip until the final credits roll. The entirety of the movie seems as though it’s been given a filter to washout color; giving it a drab, sorrowful air that brilliantly mirrors the tragic, heart-breaking situations that dementia can bring. It explores the ripples in the proverbial pond as we are shown the knock-on effect it has on the mother and daughter.
Australian cinema sensation, Robyn Nevin (Top of the Lake, Matrix: Reloaded) gives a sinister portrayal of the grandmother. Many scenes bring a crawling sensation that seeps from the pores of Relic; instilling an ever-present anxiety in the viewer. Nevin’s superb performance adds an extra layer; a certain panache that makes Relic the phenomenal journey into the human mind that I found it to be.
Alongside Nevin, Emily Mortimer (Don’t Look Deeper, Scream 3) and Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows, The Neon Demon) play the mother and daughter characters respectively. The three actresses work perfectly well together with their characters naturally falling into place.
Out of all the movies that fall under this genre I have seen, I can’t say I have ever seen one anything like Relic. The movie goes to offer a fly-on-the-wall insight into a family torn apart by dementia; bringing to the front of our minds how very real it actually is.
As Relic takes on a more metaphorical angle, it plays with your mind. You begin to question if what is happening is real, or just symbolic of the family’s struggle. This is where the beauty behind Relic lies; like a fine piece of art, it is open to self-interpretation and speculation.
Relic is a beautifully crafted experience that will -at times- chill you to your bone. Whether it be the many unsettling scenes all-too-perfectly acted out by Edwyn Nevin that gives Relic it’s place in the horror genre; or the hard-hitting reality of dementia, it’s hard to tell. Only one thing is for sure, Relic will stay with you for a long time after watching and is definitely one to watch.