STRANGE BUT TRUE, US, 2019. StarringNick Robinson, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Brian Cox, Margaret Qualley, Connor Jessup, Blythe Danner, Allegra Fulton. Directed by Rowan Athale. 96 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, violence, coarse language.
An intriguing title – for an emotional mystery rather than thriller.
For those who watch murder mysteries or for those who read Detective stories, it is likely that they will work out what has been happening as the film goes on so that the final twist may well not be a twist for them but something that they had been anticipating. So, a surprise ending for some, the expected for others.
The film starts with an intriguing pursuit through the woods, the hero in danger. And then, the announcement of two days earlier. We get to know who is being pursued but not the identity of the pursuer.
This is very much a film about family. We soon learn that the older son of the family has been killed in a road accident (visualised at the end of the film). It is five years since he has died. His mother is angry and bitter (rather an understatement) and is played intensely by Amy Ryan. She and her husband, Greg Kinnear, have separated after the accident and he has married again, living in Florida. There is a second son, Philip, played by Nick Robinson, who lives at home but has been involved in an accident and is walking on crutches, edgy with his mother.
And then the plot becomes rather strange – even as we suspect that the situation is not true. The older son’s girlfriend comes to visit, visibly pregnant, announcing that the dead son is the father! What to think? Virginal conception – some background information on that possibility. Frozen sperm – and the mother follows that line of investigation. Likely candidates for the father? Yes.
The plot veers towards drama about Philip, his concern about the pregnant woman, hearing about her dabbling in magic and psychics, his own visit to a psychic who reads him very effectively (and does remark that a psychic needs a very good memory as well) and challenges him to do something with his own life, finding confidence in unburdening to the young woman.
The young woman, Melissa (Margaret Qualley) works at a local hardware store, is cared for by a benign couple, Brian Cox and Blythe Danner, the young woman being something of a substitute daughter.
There are further developments and plot revelations which means that all the central characters are present at the end – and we see the initial chase again, and quite some melodramatics.
As mentioned, a surprise ending for some, the expected for others, and strong performances from the cast. And, eventually, some hope.
Icon Released October 17th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.