Actors: Amy Manson, James Cosmo, Craig Conway
Director: Adam Levins
Format: Dolby, NTSC, THX, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Rated: Unrated (Not Rated)
Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Run Time: 101 minutes
I went into Estranged blind, not having seen a trailer or read much about the plot. This is often necessary with films about amnesiac characters, because the suspense is derived by how slowly information is doled out to the audience, often at the same time as it is revealed to the protagonist. This works for Estranged until the secrets are revealed and it becomes a different movie entirely. I would liken it to the sudden tonal shift in David Fincher’s Gone Girl at about the halfway mark, though his film provided far richer payoffs whereas Estranged is content to unravel into a mindless and bloody revenge film.
After a bad motorcycle accident while traveling in
January (Amy Manson) is badly injured and left with no memory of her childhood.
This makes returning home to the family estate with her boyfriend, Callum
(Simon Quartermain) an uncomfortable affair, especially since she can’t
remember the reason for running away in the first place. The family is
immediately off-putting, though their behavior can first be attributed to
concern for the injured January along with wounds from the past. Soon it
becomes clear that there are secrets from her past that they are glad she no
The family is comprised of the overly somber looking father named Albert (James Cosmo), who has little use for the boyfriend his daughter has brought home, and his strangely disconnected wife, Marilyn (Eileen Nicholas). January’s two siblings also live in the manor, stuck in an odd state of arrested development. Laurence (James Lance) is her leering snarky brother, who at least seems to wear his heart on his sleeve. Her sister Katherine (Nora-Jane Noone) is more difficult to figure out, often punishing January for the jealousy she feels. Both are old enough that it is strange they do nothing with their lives other than remaining on the estate being served by the family butler (Craig Conway).
The film offers a few twists and turns before settling into a captivity torture film, eventually sliding into a revenge narrative that comes to resolution a bit too easily. Somewhere in here may have been a great film, but it never came into focus. The script is a bit too aimless and doesn’t quite know how to get from one plot point to another in a way that is more enjoyable than obligatory. There are tonal shifts which aren’t earned and loose ends in the narrative unsatisfactorily resolved, lost amidst the indulgent ending. Even with these faults, Estranged is far better than I expected, but more for directorial strength than success with the suspense in the narrative.
The Blu-ray release comes with a 30-minute making-of featurette, including interviews with key cast and crew members. Also included is the trailer.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 4.5/10