★★★★ Written and Directed by: Mickey Reece Starring: Audrey Wagner, Jacob Snovel, Mary Buss, Elise Langer, Cate Jones, Andrew Appleyard, Kato Buss Indie Film Review by: Chris Olson
Told with the cold detachment of a Yorgos Lanthimos film (see The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Mickey Reece's black comedy drama Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart is a superbly controlled indie feature with marvelous performances, deadpan line delivery, and a gothic mise en scene that is enveloping.
The plot of Reece's movie concerns Madeline (Audrey Wagner) and her new husband David (Jacob Snovel), who are about to embark on a new chapter in their lives, as newlyweds and hotel-owners. The only downside is that their new purchase resides in the same town as Madeline's mysterious and obscure mother Dianne (Mary Buss). Having no other option than to invite her over, shit gets weird pretty quickly, as the estranged mother daughter relationship starts to reveal itself in unexpected ways.
Having seen Reece's excellent mockumentary Mickey Reece’s Alien last year, I was prepared for another dose of the weird and wonderful filmmaking he is so capable of. What I was not ready for was the thematic depth, marvelous melodrama, and deranged abstract visuals that litter the film, all culminating in a startling and affecting piece of indie cinema.
Snovel, who also featured in Mickey Reece's Alien, is on top form here, reminiscent of the Colin Farrell character in the aforementioned The Lobster. His dry demeanour and lack of emotion is utterly brilliant, and some of his lines are definitely the funniest. It is Wagner and Buss who steal the show, though, with their crippling familial angst and maternal issues. A sequence by the piano is one of the best scenes I've seen in a film this year. Wagner is an intense and slow burning performer on screen in this, whilst Buss is almost an ethereal presence, shattering any sense of mundane TV dramatics with her dark and stormy approach to the role.
The supporting cast are also worthy of honorable mention. In particular Elise Langer as Madeline's sister, as well as Kato Buss who does a wonderful turn as Father Black. His scene with the troubled family is also one of Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart's best.
As mentioned, the aesthetic is excellent, maintaining a gothic look and feel whilst the uncontrollable score from Nicholas Poss is like a raging dagger, poised to strike at any moment. The tension that this creates for the viewer is palpable, never knowing if a burst of music is going to suddenly attack them along with a quick cut to a random shot of a horned sheep. There may have been some issues with the sound levels for me though, as dialogue would often get lost depending on where the actor was standing. The abstract approach of Strike, Dear Mistress, and Cure His Heart is unnerving and most definitely adds to the atmosphere for the viewer throughout. There was also an interesting array of camera angles used, such as a low-angled shot of David and Dianne talking which created an almost ghostly sense to the picture.
Overall, a gloriously unnerving cinematic experience from Reece, one that borrows intelligently from filmmakers of the past whilst putting the stamp of originality firmly in the centre of the picture.
Watch the official movie trailer below...