Resurrection Review: Rebecca Hall Delivers Another Fierce Performance In This Disturbing Thriller [Sundance 2022]

Rebecca Hall is one of the best actresses working right now. No matter what the material, Hall appears to throw herself into the role, building a unique, believable character every single time. Blockbusters, indie titles — it doesn't matter. She always delivers. Hall also has a knack for playing solitary women coming completely unmoored — something she did so well in films like "Christine" and "The Night House," and something she does again with "Resurrection," a disturbing little thriller from writer-director Andrew Semans. Just because Hall is playing yet another woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown doesn't mean she's repeating herself, though. No, Hall is so dang talented that she finds ways to distinguish these parts, never going through the motions, always giving the audience a fully realized character that captivates us from start to finish. She's like an athlete at the top of her game.  

In "Resurrection," Hall is Margaret, a single mother working a high-powered job in a sleek, ultra-modern office. When we first meet her, we get the sense that she's stern but not unfeeling as she dishes out words of advice to an employee having relationship troubles. In these first few minutes, we also get the sense that Margaret has her life totally together and that she is not one to stand for bulls**t. She's in the middle of an affair with a married man (Michael Esper). He may want more out of the relationship, but it becomes clear that Margaret is only interested in the sex. At home, Margaret is playful but also highly overprotective of her teen daughter (Grace Kaufman). 

Little by little, cracks begin to appear in Margaret's veneer. Her daughter inexplicably finds a rotting tooth tucked away in her wallet, and that's just for starters. At a work conference, Margaret spots a man (Tim Roth) and has what appears to be a panic attack. The man, David, keeps popping up wherever Margaret goes. At first, she ignores him — even hides from him. But she can't keep doing that forever, and she finally approaches David in a public park. David first gives the impression that he has no idea who she is or what she's talking about, but then almost immediately gives up on that ruse. He does indeed know Margaret, because the two of them have a dark, deranged history. 

More than 20 years ago, when Margaret was just 18, she met the much older David and moved in with him. At first, their relationship was good (despite the large age difference). But little by little, David chipped away at her, locking Margaret in a domineering, highly abusive relationship that included David burning Margaret with cigarettes — and that's child's play compared to some of the other horrific acts Margaret attributes to this man. Roth is terrifying here, playing David as soft-spoken and seemingly rational, but also clearly dangerous and potentially insane. "I know him. I know what he's capable of," Margaret says, later adding that David once claimed he could "hear God whispering his name." 

Chilling to the Extreme

"Resurrection" plays all its cards close to its vest, and there's a surreal quality at play that keeps us from completely figuring things out. At one point David flashes a horrifying smile that seems entirely inhuman. Did Margaret really see that, or is her troubled consciousness warping her perception? As for David, he exudes a threatening aura without making any actual threats. Margaret's attempt to get the police involved is almost immediately shut down. In the words of the cops, there's nothing they can do, unless David actually does something. And by then it might be too late.

In an attempt to keep herself (and her daughter) safe, Margaret reluctantly agrees to start giving in to some of David's demands. He tells her if she follows the rules he'll stop bothering her. She doesn't believe that — but she also feels trapped. There's no one she can turn to. And sooner or later, she's going to have to deal with this herself. This simple set-up paves the way for plenty of highly-charged, highly-disturbing moments, like when Margaret has a nightmare involving a screaming baby in her kitchen oven. 

And the entire time, we're left wondering just what's real here. Is any of it real? Or are we being drawn deeper into Margaret's fractured mind? The material at hand isn't the best or most creative. But "Resurrection" thrives thanks to Hall's unimpeachable performance. She's at the center of nearly every scene, and she commands the screen, growing more frantic and disheveled with each passing moment. At one point, Semans simply holds on her as she delivers a horrifying monologue about her past life with David. It's a simple shot: Hall's face front and center, almost glowing a pale light against a darkened background. She speaks, and we're fixated on her — on her rigid disposition, on her haunted, hurt, angry eyes. It's fair to say that if "Resurrection" had failed to land Hall as its lead it would not be as successful. 

"Resurrection" builds towards a grisly, ghoulish climax and a finale that leaves more questions than answers. The overall experience is chilling to the extreme. The type of chill that seeps its way into your bones and leaves you unprotected and unbalanced. There are more than a few times here where I hoped "Resurrection" would strive to be something more than it ultimately is, but it's easy to be swayed by what Semans and Hall have conjured up here — a frightening film you won't easily forget. 

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10