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USA 2015
Directed by
Alex Ross Perry
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Queen Of Earth

Confounding my prediction based on his previous film Listen Up Phillip (2014) that indie writer director Alex Ross Perry was headed for the mainstream, his follow-up, Queen of Earth, is a sharp turn away from his comedic treatment of neurotically off-beat characters into probing psychological realism. The opening close-up of the bedraggled main character, Catherine (Elisabeth Moss, who had been in Listen Up Philip), as she tearfully confronts her boyfriend (Kentucker Audley) who has just dumped her sets Perry’s agenda and he never wavers from it for the next gruelling but compelling 90 minutes.

Adding to the pain of the break-up, Catherine’s father, a successful sculptor, has recently died so she heads for a weekend stay with her best-friend, Virginia (Katherine Waterston), at her family’s cabin in the woods. Virginia however has taken up with the boy next door (Patrick Fugit) and this sends Catherine into a tailspin of resentment and recrimination directed against the both of them (at times confusingly we cut back to the same setting a year earlier when Catherine was still happily with her boyfriend and Virginia was on her own).

There used to be lot of talk about male writer-directors who were able to write for women but as there are now so many female writer-directors this is much less so. Perry’s depiction of the emotionally-draining dynamics of female relationships however is devastating and both the actresses are completely convincing in delivering what seems like knives of psychological cruelty but on another level appears to be an attempt to push each other, for better or worse, into some unsustainable state of emotional truth and verbally unarticulatable emotional bond.

At times as Catherine grows increasingly strung-out one fears that some ghastly deed is about to transpire (a suggestion well-aided by Keegan DeWitt’s minimalist score that recalls the work of Arvo Pärt) but this is a credit to Perry and Moss’s success in bringing home the extremity of her mental state not because of any capitulation to genre plotting.

With Queen of Earth Perry has permuted to a whole new level of film-making.  Where he goes from here I wouldn't dare to predict. 

Available from: Accent Film




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