Movie Review: Emelie

emelie poster

@suzebee04 reviews...

Director: Michael Thelin
Writer: Rich Herbeck
Starring: Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, Carly Adams, Thomas Bair

Review

Babysitting is a gig all girls have done at one time or another. It’s not always an easy job, but it’s a great way to make extra cash as a teenager. The downside, besides temperamental children, is the potential for death by a knife-wielding maniac. Granted, that doesn’t happen much, but if you’ve seen Halloween or When a Stranger Calls, then you don’t care about statistics. That threat, no matter how remote, is always in the back of your mind. But what if the threat is the very person you’ve entrusted your children to? Director Michael Thelin delivers an unsettling look at this premise, which is a genre mix of slasher, home invasion, and psychological thriller.

Using a replacement babysitter at the last minute, rather than cancel their plans, Dan and Joyce Thompson welcome a stranger into their home. Anna comes highly recommended by their regular sitter, but the girl they believe to be Anna is actually the eponymous Emelie (Sarah Bolger). At the open of the film, the audience sees Anna being kidnapped while being asked for directions. The act happens so quickly, no one in the neighborhood notices.

While we don’t know what Emelie’s endgame is we know something isn’t quite right when she gets in the car with Dan. Her flirtation and evasive answers give off a creepy vibe. As soon as she enters the home, the two youngest children, Sally and Christopher, accept her immediately. Oldest son, Jacob, is suspicious, but intrigued. Things change, however, one the parents leave. It begins innocently enough with Anna taking pictures and playing dress up, but soon turns when she takes a jab at Sally’s unimaginative costume and, in the next breath, praises Christopher’s. She tries to get at Jacob by using her sexuality on the pre-teen. At each turn, things get more uncomfortable and more inappropriate.
Emelie image

Bolger, who you may be familiar with from her role in The Tudors, is more than adequate as Emelie. She manages to quickly shift from friendly and loving to sinister and sadistic. The three children all hold their own, independently and as a unit. The youngest of the Thompson children, Christopher, is played with exceptional finesse by Thomas Bair. This kid is a standout.

We do eventually discover what Emilie wants. Through narration, flashbacks, and crude sketches, Emelie tells her story. This is the one area where the movie falls flat. It’s an unimaginative explanation for her insanity and while it should illicit some sympathy for her, it leads to more questions which are not going to be answered. The focus on the Thompson’s marriage is a secondary storyline that doesn’t really work and feels like a time filler. More time should have been spent on clarifying Emelie’s backstory than shifting to the often awkward dinner date.

While there are a few horrific moments, director Michael Thelin doesn’t rely on gratuitous gore to make you uneasy, often cutting away and focusing on character reactions. He also shows some restraint when the kids begin to fight back. Although there are a few times you might roll your eyes at the resourcefulness of Jacob, it could have been much worse and gone into comical territory.

Overall, Emelie is a very watchable and often cringe-worthy film, even if it’s far from perfect.

Suzanne Bell

Twitter: @suzebee04

Images: IMDb

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