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Film Review: Separation (2013)

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SYNOPSIS:

A young couple moves their struggling family to a small town, where a mysterious neighbor becomes a threat to their very existence.

REVIEW:

ok wow…I really don’t know where to begin on this one.

Our story begins with Liz (Sarah Manninen) and Jack (Peter Stebbings) moving into their brand new home with their daughter Angie (Arcadia Kendal, who wins the prize for best name for a child actor EVER) and mom in law (Barbara Gordon…no not that one).

Liz and Jack have a pretty bad marriage, as evidenced by the fact that they almost never seem to be in same room together, much less in the house together. And when they are, it’s all screaming and accusations followed by Liz throwing herself at Jack like a wanton woman. Jack is guilty of some sort of sin against Liz, although I’m not entirely sure what it was. As the film progresses, we get hints at it – perhaps an afffair, or maybe it has to do with a medical decision concerning Liz’ health during a failed pregnancy.

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Liz seems to suffer from some sort of psychosis. Despite all the pills she keeps popping, she keeps hallucinating monsters and peeping toms and whatever else. We are also given the suggestion that she may be currently pregnant again, as evidenced by a “baby bump”.

Anyway, the new home is supposed to be a fresh start where they will try and re-build their shattered marriage. It’s not going so well, FYI.

Then we we have some weird neighbors. There’s the real estate guy, actually called Guy (Rob deLeeuw) who just sold them the place, yet seems determined to convince them to sell it right away, like before they have even unpacked. In fact, he shows up in the middle of the night, ostensibly to “pick up his sign”. Yea, that’s not weird.

And the neighborhood “welcome wagon” Geoffery ( Dmitry Chepovetsky) who’s idea of a welcome is to show up in the middle of the night with a basket of flowers…that contain a hidden camera. Again, totally not weird.

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And we’re off! things get wierder weirder, and Liz spirals out of control. She’s seeing creepy stuff everywhere, and the viewer really doesn’t know what’s actually there and what is in her head.

Oh, and there’s a bit in a local store where a newspaper headline mentions a serial killer that murders families. Also, a news segment talking about a cop who is investigating these murders, and how he had to get a judge to allow him to investigate since he had a “conflict of interest”.

In fact, the first 50 minutes of the film is a torturous viewing of this very unpleasant family being unpleasant to each other. Jack is a total dick. Liz is a basket case and a pathetic creature desperately trying to hold on to a man who obviously doesn’t care about her. Mom is a shrew, hateful and meddling. Angie’s entire role in the film seems to be having silent tantrums off screen and telling Mom and Dad how much she hates them.

However, once we hit that 50 minute mark, something amazing happens – the film actually gets interesting. Suspense rises and Liz’ crazy ramps up to 11. Just what exactly is going on this neighborhood? What the hell is wrong with these people? And seriously…what’s going on here?

Now here is where the joke is on me. Ready? So I watched it all the way through, and hated every cursed minute of it. The ending confused me, I found all the characters completely unlikeable, and was praying for this damn thing to end. Then as I started to write the review, I had an epiphany – I suddenly unlocked the puzzle and it all made sense. I actually went back and watched it again and, using my new found understanding, I really liked it.

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It’s one of those kind of movies, folks. You really need to watch it twice to make sense of all the story threads laid out in the film. I will go so far as to compare it to early M. Night Shamalan films such as The Sixth Sense (which I also hated the first time I watched it, and had to go back for a second viewing to find the love for it). There’s a lot of clever in the story that one may not catch the first time around.

Writer/director Greg White has a ridiculous amount of credits to his name, nothing I have heard of but a lot of it. A lot of them are short films, but he really did a good job of creating a feature length WTF of a film.

This film also has a higly experienced cast. All of them have endless film and television credits, way too many to even try and list.

Visually, the film is stunning. Great use of under-lighting, a skill that is under-appreciated in many lower budget productions. Cinematographer Pasha Patriki (again, an endless list of work to his credit) does an extraordinary job of giving us an eye into this whacked-out world.

While this film may not be for everyone, if you do give it a try and don’t like it the first time around, try it again. You’ll find it’s much better than you thought.

So on a scale of one to ten, ten being awesome, I’m giving this film 7 WTFs.

2 comments

  1. So I just watched this last night…played automatically on Hulu after something else ended, and while i was preparing to go to sleep I let it play. I ended up watching it, and after some time I did get into it. I feel like I had a very similar take as did you, but I have not put it all together. I’m frustrated. I have five kids and may never have the TV to myself again during my natural life, so would you please unlock this for me??? I would be so grateful. Please feel free to email me if you don’t want to spill it in comments.

     
  2. Steve Dykstra

    Hi, I watched the movie and have absolutely no idea what happened at the end, or most of the movie for that matter. I’m trying hard but not having any sort of epiphany as you did. Making things worse, no one online explains it besides merely stating that once you get it, you will like the movie more. What about people who are stupid and don’t understand movies easily? Could you explain it to me please?

     

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