Even the dinner scene with Toni Collette and David Thewlis is incredible. The acting, writing, directing, and editing for this scene is about as good as it can get. Like the rest of the movie, it’s layered, it’s complex, it’s unsettling, and gets multiple points across without having to spell it out for us. Everyone here brings it and it shows — it really does.
This movie also is, is DEEPLY UNSETTLING at times. This movie has a wide range of unsettling for you to choose from. From awkward silences of a dying relationship, maggots eating a pig from the inside out, a dog who can’t seem to stop shaking it’s fur to get dry, to David Thewlis (the character is only known as Dad) shaking his son’s hand while dead eyeing the Young Woman, to…well, just about half the movie. There are also weird jump cuts that just throw you for a loop. Like there is jump cut at dinner that had the family going to the dinner table in one shot to all of them except the Young Woman sitting around the table. There’s another brilliant cut where the Young Woman is petting a dog (Jimmy), and in the next shot he’s gone, but we can still hear him.
Even the performances are unsettling at times. Mom and Dad have a tendency to stare off into the distance and act offbeat at a moment’s notice. One second they can be laughing and then the next they are a sobbing mess. Even their ages and appearances change from scene to scene. The dialogue even has a tendency to become uncomfortable. There’s a scene where the Young Woman is on the phone and an old man’s distorted voice says some rather upsetting things. It’s quickly glossed over as if nothing happens and even the Young Woman says it’s her old girlfriend (not in that way) from college. The atmosphere to the film overall is just unsettling, but in a good way — if there is such a thing.
The movie is also subtle. Really subtle. Maybe too subtle. I wasn’t lying when I said this movie doesn’t hold your hand. There are bits of imagery and scenes placed as intercuts that don’t make a whole lotta sense, but I can feel they have some sort of purpose to the story as a whole. This movie is an enigma — a puzzle that you need to put together, but none of the pieces have any images on them, and it’s only when it’s complete do you actually see the big picture — and even then you still might not get what the picture is supposed to even be.
There are some metaphors that are much easier to understand. The pilgrim figures where the man is reading and is ignorant to his wife holding two evenly filled buckets of water — a clear sign that Jake is oblivious to the Young Woman’s feelings as she is trying to keep their relationship afloat. Or how the Young Woman is walking down the same staircase as her voice over continues, signifying the perpetual dilemma that lies before her.