There are times when one sits down to watch a movie, when one needs to suspend belief in the real world and the things that are known as facts, in order to enjoy a story. This is exactly what one would think watching Strange But True, based on the novel by John Searles, adapted for the screen by Eric Garcia, and directed by Rowan Athale. However, this movie is not at all what it seems, and takes its viewers on a ride they probably weren’t expecting. With a star-studded cast and exceptional performances by all, this movie has all the right ingredients for beinga hit – except or a story that cannot decide what genre it really wants to be.
The movie painfully and slowly unfolds as a family grieve the death of a loved one. There’s a mother (Amy Ryan) who is all anger and bitterness; an older brother (Nick Robertson) who is lost and alone; and a father (Greg Kinnear) who has coped by leaving and starting a new life far away. Each of them has been sinking in their grief over the loss of Ronnie (Connor Jessup), who tragically died very young and whose death was seemingly caused by his high school sweetheart, Melissa (Margaret Qualley). It’s a reason the viewers aren’t privy to until the final moments of the film and honestly doesn’t justify the alienation the poor girl suffers at the expense of her boyfriend’s family.
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Five years have passed, and Melissa shows up on the doorstep of the family whose son she robbed them of, nine months pregnant and alone. She attempts to convince them with a cassette tape of a clairvoyant (is this something that psychics do?), insisting that the baby inside her is somehow connected to their dead son. This movie tries to trick the viewers into thinking that it could be some kind of paranormal virgin birth scenario, but wait…
Richard, the father, who absconded to Miami with his new wife (Sarah Allen) and life, just happens to be a fertility doctor. Charlene becomes obsessed with researching fertility and harvesting sperm on a dead body, which is a strange set of scenes since it shows her checking out books at the library and research on a library computer. Is this some alternate universe where the internet doesn’t exist? Can she not just Google these questions from her couch? The one logical thing that she does, is finally call her expert husband who would actually know the answers to her questions, but then…
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Bill and Gail (Brian Cox and Blythe Danner) are the sweet elderly couple who have taken in the pregnant Melissa (with Richard footing the bill) and are all hearts and love expressing that they have never been able to have children, and her coming will allow them to be kind of adoptive grandparents to the new baby. They have also given her a job in their hardware store. Their relationship is heartwarming and darling – the old man sneaking a couple puffs of a cigarette and Gail chastising him over it – and yet they are not.
The movie builds up to the moment that Melissa gives birth, and in those moments all the secrets are exposed. However, as a viewer looking for some sort of otherworldly explanation, prepare to be disappointed. The movie just doesn’t deliver on meaningful answers after a 90-minute journey into these sad, depressed people who are just trying to grieve a loss but instead are caught up in a web of deceit and perversion. When the ending is revealed and the heroine is holding her baby, knowing how the child was conceived, hearing her sappy sweet take on life and why bad things happen, ssaying she wants ‘answers without proof’ seems like a disturbingly uncool way to rationalise what has happened to her and how she came to be pregnant. This movie tries too hard to be a thriller with no thrill for the viewer.
Strange But True is available on Digital Download on 27th September from Vertigo Releasing.