Taking place at a remote, decaying Australian county home, ‘Relic’ speaks heavily on dementia and the affects it has on family. It is directed by Natalie Erika James whose willingness to let her film slowly build into a beautiful, claustrophobic story about what we do for those we love is truly a masterpiece.
When elderly Edna (Robyn Nevin) disappears, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer) and granddaughter Sam (Bella Heathcote) return the countryside home to look for her. When she reappears, Kay and Sam stay to take care of her. Her behavior becomes more volatile as does the relationship between Kay and Sam.
The house deteriorates around them as if Edna’s diminishing mental state is tied to the house, though they seem not to notice at first. Sam gets lost in the bowels of the house which rots and shrinks around her. Her screams for help go unheard by Kay. I’ve never seen a better metaphor for dementia than what this house does to Sam.
Edna’s physical and mental state deteriorate and she turns on Kay even as Kay finally hears Sam’s screams for help. Edna’s skin, much like her sanity, is cracking and falling away. Even through this, Kay decides to stay with her mother until she dies. Sam decides to stay as well, only to find that Kay, too, is suffering from Edna’s physical and mental strains.
This film is a slow burner but stick with it. The payoff is worth it. The house is in its own class of creepy places to film a horror movie. The three main characters are believable and well acted. Emily Mortimer really sells it. She brings fragility and empathy to her role even when Edna is at her worst.
“Relic” is currently available on VOD streaming services like Vudu.