FilmReview

What Remains

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writers: Megan Everett-Skarsgård and Ran Huang

Director: Ran Huang

Megan Everett-Skarsgård and Ran Huang’s psychological police procedural staring Andrea Riseborough, Gustaf Skarsgård and Stellan Skarsgård, What Remains is an oddly pitched examination of criminal psychology and the troubling power of an individual who weaves a spell over medical professionals fascinated by his mental state. Mixing washed-out visuals and a social realist style with a European indie cinema and Scandi noir style, Everett-Skarsgård and Huang’s film is based on a true story but struggles to come to life.

After spending years in a facility following a breakdown, Mats confesses to paedophilia and the murder of a child 15-years previously. With his release cancelled, Mats is assigned as a patient to therapist Anna who uncovers childhood abuse and forms of social withdrawal that explain his confused memory, but it is only when policeman Soren becomes involved that a reconstruction of the case begins.

There is considerable ambiguity in Everett-Skarsgårrd and Huang’s film that leaves the audience unsure whether Mats’ (Gustaf Skarsgård) confession is a result of his treatment or an excuse to remain in the safe environs of the clinic. This potential cry for help is balanced by his therapist’s own demons that suggest she may not be qualified to support her patient. It is a dark and moody film filled with unusual camerawork that keeps the audience at bay, unable to quite reach any of the characters and certainly not encouraged to feel any sympathy or investment in their story.

Something About You is a very discursive film, long therapy sessions with Anna and Soren who listen to Mats talk and talk and talk about what he may have done, and while it is to the film’s credit that there are no reconstructions, its running time of over two hours starts to become weighed down by the relative lack of action. Likewise, this fascinated focus on a potential killer and Anna’s insistence that Mats is a victim too sidelines the 13-year-old boy he may have abused and murdered – a common trait in a genre that fetishes these characters.

There is committed work from the three leads but the competition for who is the most damaged becomes increasingly frustrating with Anna’s family issues resurfacing and although she is played with absolute sincerity by Riseborough, the cod psychology and bon mots about not choosing your family become tiresome without moving the story or the characterisation on. Likewise, Skaarsgarde’s Soren can’t just be a dedicated policeman but a former alcoholic who worries about his estranged daughter moving away, given risible dialogue like “I’ve been going to the AA, what else do you want from me” that barely make his character seem real.

Huang’s control of the camera is the film’s most interesting contribution with intriguing landscape shots, the mundanity of municipal buildings, long shots of duologues in office spaces that create space and doubt, shots through windows and lots of rain, all keen to alienate the viewer, although sometimes scenes are so dark it is hard to make out what is happening anyway. A slow burn that just burns out, What Remains leaves little trace.

What Remains is in select UK cinemas from 5 July and on digital from 5 August.

The Reviews Hub Score:

Oddly pitched

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The Reviews Hub - Film

The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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