Esme, My Love: Review

Esme, My Love: Review

Esme, My Love: Review. By Joe Muldoon.

Minimalist indie thriller Esme, My Love is the debut narrative directorial feature from Emmy award-winning sound technician Cory Choy. A young mother, Hannah (Stacey Weckstein), takes her daughter. Esme (Audrey Grace Marshall), on a woodland camping trip, their final destination being Hannah’s parents’ old home. Along the way, Hannah strays into the liminal realm between reality and delusion, and her fluctuating sanity does not go unnoticed by the increasingly concerned Esme.

The confused mother insists upon digging holes in the ground, and makes constant mention of an elusive person she refers to as ‘Emily’ – just why does she dig, who -or what- is Emily, and why must they find her? My questions here are not entirely rhetorical, because after finishing the film, I am not myself sure I could properly guess the intended answers – if, indeed, there are any. Herein lies the film’s downfall; its ambiguity borders upon incoherence. Next to no clues are given to the audience, and we are left with an assortment of jigsaw pieces to a puzzle whose final intended image is a murky mystery.

To be sure, many of the darkly psychological sequences deliver some enjoyable thrills and spills, but their impact is somewhat dulled because of the lack of clarity regarding their relation to the overarching story. Hannah is often subject to rather distressing visions, but their unexplained and often abrupt occurrences leave the audience feeling perplexed. At times, the picture becomes a meandering tapestry of peculiar hallucinations of the magical realism variety, ultimately left frustratingly unresolved. The identity of Emily remains perhaps the greatest source of puzzlement; is she a total invention of Hannah’s imagination, the spectre of a lost life, an astral messenger?

Most impressive about the film are the terrific cinematography and the acting performances by the sole two cast members, Weckstein and Marshall. As events unfold and small revelations are partially uncovered, the mother-daughter pair bounce between closeness and distance, between tenderness and terror – if their performances here are anything to go by, my advice is to “watch his space”.

The interpersonal relationship of the troubled twosome is decidedly the best feature, and Choy’s exploration of generational trauma, grief, and loss gives their interactions a welcomed layer of intrigue. Esme, My Love is an excellently-acted, beautifully-shot, and incredibly slowly burning thriller that is ultimately let down by its obfuscated overall plot. All elements and potential for a great thriller are there, they simply lacked the clarifying glue to fully execute them.

By Joe Muldoon

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