Angel of Mine is Kim Farrant’s Australian psychological thriller that takes a deeper look into idyllic suburban family life and tells the story of Lizzie (Noomi Rapace), a beauty therapist and grieving mother who after attending a child’s birthday party believes her daughter who died in a hospital blaze several years prior, is still alive. Mental health issues subsequent to this tragedy mean Lizzie has separated from her partner, become a detached and unreliable parent to her remaining son and completely closed off from her family and colleagues. So ensues a plot that sees her trying to connect with the young girl Lola by any means necessary at the expense of the already fragile relationships with those left in her life.
Set in Australia’s eastern states, Farrant observantly captures the intricacies of the Melburnian, middle class, nuclear family suburban lifestyle. It’s laid on nicely and definitely gives it a fresh feel in a setting that hasn’t really had much representation in this particular genre on screen. It explores the reluctance and insincerity of ‘school gate’ culture, with forced relationships and dialogue that’s all a little fake and meaningless. Initial interactions between Lizzie and Lola’s mother Claire (Yvonne Strahovski) are particularly intriguing – an obligatory friendship based on superficialities, with little else in common apart from life as a mum and the key character, Lola.
Rapace and Farrant’s portrayal of Lizzie focuses heavily on the crippling social and mental isolation caused by grief. While we’re never really convinced that Lizzie could become dangerously unpredictable like an Alex Forrest or an Amy Dunne, there’s in depth insight into the fragility of mental health. Her behaviour and habits are believable and clearly well researched in terms of performance and direction. How we view her as a character seems to change from scene to scene and raises questions about our own attitude to mental health issues – do we simply lack empathy for her suffering or are our frustrations at her irresponsibility and selfishness justified?
Aesthetically it’s a pretty film. The colour palette is soft and hazy, creating a dreamlike feel and an atmosphere that’s mysterious and ethereal, particularly in scenes between Lizzie and Lola. It’s reminiscent of Gone Girl in that respect, similar in its ambience and adoptive of the same contemporary psychological thriller conventions. The camerawork and certain shots feel like we’re hiding, constantly sneaking around, peeking round corners – seeing things we shouldn’t be seeing. These technical aspects help keep the film’s narrative somewhat suspenseful but struggle to compensate for a tension trajectory that is disappointingly steady in progression.
There’s no real variation in pace which takes away the fun and excitement that’s such a crucial component to the genre. In comparison with many of the great female driven thrillers it doesn’t pick up or slow down to the point of any real discomfort and at times, makes incidents that occur between Lizzie and other characters feel more socially awkward than potentially life-threatening.
The ending as a result feels rushed. It’s not an anticlimax as such because the tension unfortunately never quite gets there for us to be disappointed, but it’s a resolution that’s overall a bit of a discredit to a film that showcases some really interesting themes and a lot of good cinema. In conclusion it’s not a thriller that thrills as such, but it’s an entertaining atmospheric drama that asks us to consider the loneliness of motherhood, grief, family breakdown and to look beyond the white picket fence.
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