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RETURN TO SENDER

May 22, 2015

Film + EntertainmentReview | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Welcome back to our screens, ‘Amazing Amy’! Rosamund Pike is hardly one for typecasting but she absolutely knows how to play the crazy lady and I wouldn’t say no to seeing a bit more of this side of the actress in the future. Filmed before Gone Girl but released long after, Return To Sender at times feels like a prequel to the Amy Elliot-Dunne/Nick Dunne relationship that grabbed audiences in David Fincher’s 2014 film. Though director Fouad Mikati’s exploration of sociopathy, rape-revenge and general moral compass greying is certainly thin in the lip compared to Gone Girl it is clearly full in the gesture.

Here, Pike plays Miranda, a confident career nurse. She’s steeled as heck; the kind of person who can spontaneously perform a tracheotomy on a fellow restaurant-goer who is choking to death before returning to her own meal. Miranda has plenty of friends and she always has to be the best. Her idiosyncrasies are a touch on the wrong side of quirky (OCD surface cleaning, fattening up her friends when they’re trying to diet, never using someone else’s pen – literally: she buys bulk and carries them around with her) but these things draw us to her as a fully formed person. So even though we aren’t exactly in love with the bachelorette when she bags a blind date, the hot punch delivered when that date turns sour and Miranda is raped in her own home churns our stomachs badly.

After the incident, Miranda’s life is turned upside down: her house won’t sell as it is deemed tainted property, she loses a great career opportunity due to an affected work performance and she’s constantly reminded that her dad (Nick Nolte) is that oddity when he tries too hard to assure her all will be alright. Miranda isn’t phased though because, as she puts it, hating her attacker and the fallout of the incident “only hurts me.” With that, Miranda starts writing to her attacker (Shiloh Fernandez) in prison and over time she forms an unexpected connection with him.

Besides some excellent deliverance from Pike and the sleazy Fernandez (I went through three televisions watching the movie after throwing objects at him every time he appeared on-screen) the cookie-cutter visual style used is one of the best parts of the film. Mikati could have easily chosen a darker, more filmic look for the story what with its material but he instead chooses the palate of a primetime medical drama: clean and crisp, and white and green. It’s easier to focus on Miranda without an artful or indie approach, straddling a line of whimsy nicely. This also helps subvert our attentions when the relationship – for lack of a better word – between Miranda and her attacker grows, distracting us from thinking too hard about what either one’s possible ulterior motive may be.

It’s creepy how quickly we, as an audience, accept the pair’s bond as a viable thing given that the event that brought them into each other’s lives made us hide our faces in disgust/shock only thirty minutes prior. Certainly it feels a bit Grey’s Anatomy-meets-Game Of Thrones: an unlikely melding of genre and style that works remarkably well due to the authentic emotion that drives it.

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Beyond this melding, Return To Sender isn’t exactly narratively innovative. Had the film not starred Pike or Fernandez I feel confident that it wouldn’t work, and aside from a rather abrupt and confusingly ambiguous ending, it very successfully does. Unfortunately, the trailer hasn’t been greatly received but I can assure you that this is 90 minutes well worth your time if you’re the kind of person who can really get on board with solid, character-driven thrillers.

Return To Sender is released in UK cinemas on May 22nd

Stephen J. Bowron