Babycall Review

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Score

A terrific central turn and assured direction ensure a gripping ride.

Despite bearing a title that conjures images of a lost collaboration between Tyler Perry and Eddie Griffin circa 1992, this striking fourth feature from Norwegian filmmaker Pål Sletaune in fact inhabits a claustrophobic psychological landscape that recalls early Polanski.

Anchored by a terrific performance from Noomi Rapace, Sletaune forgoes the narrative momentum one might expect from the Rear Window-like set-up laid, opting instead for a commendably restrained portrait of his protagonist’s mental disintegration.

This softly-softly directorial approach means a lot rests on Rapace to hold our interest. Hiding out with her eight-year-old son from a violent ex-husband in a nondescript apartment block, Rapace’s Anna is a world away from the iconic ferocity of her most famous screen creation in the Millennium trilogy.

A haunted bundle of nervous tics and darting glances, Anna’s intense vulnerability centres around a perceived need to protect her son. Installing the eponymous baby monitor in his bedroom in a bid to overcome her neurotic concerns for his safety, manifested as uncomfortably infantilising mollycoddling, her sleepless nights descend into waking nightmares when she hears the screams of an abused child coming from a neighbouring apartment on a shared frequency of the device.

Sletaune proves an expert hand at managing the increasingly unreliable subjectivity of the film’s focus, ensuring that whilst our sympathies remain with Anna, we can never trust to what extent the events presented to us are figments of her paranoid delusions.

It’s a dual approach that keeps us on our toes, extending to the peripheral characters that begin to bleed into her hermetically sealed world. A tentative relationship with mummy’s boy Helge (Kristoffer Joner), the store worker from whom she buys the baby monitor, is replete with both touching awkwardness and in his longing stares, subtle hints of another potentially dangerous, troubled soul.

If in retrospect the answers provided by the denouement may not entirely add up, provoking some questionable mental backtracking through earlier plot points, the icy control of Sletaune’s direction and Rapace’s riveting performance remain ample compensation.

John Andreas Andersen’s low-key lensing and Fernando Velázquez’s spare score keep things firmly grounded in reality, counterpointing Anna’s increasingly erratic behaviour and possible hints at the paranormal, ensuring that when the lid blows off in the third act with an act of startling violence, even though the narrative may not entirely come together in the end, it still packs quite a punch.

Anticipation

The title may not entice, but Rapace's first post-Dragon lead makes for an intriguing proposition.

3

Enjoyment

A terrific central turn and assured direction ensure a gripping ride.

4

In Retrospect

The ending may not entirely add up, but a minor complaint with so much else to keep us on our toes.

3
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