This American/Australia co-production from Strangerland director Kim Farrant is an occasionally awkward psychodramatic character piece enlivened by an unsettling performance from Noomi Rapace.
A remake of the French film Mark Of An Angel (2008), this was obviously shot in Melbourne (although no one mentions that word) and feels cramped compared to Strangerland’s terrifying wide-open spaces, but Swedish Rapace (now a long way from the original Dragon Tattoo series) compensates for any problems with her portrayal of dreadful longing and agony.
Her beautician Lizzie is presented as damaged right from the word go, and that’s hardly surprising as her baby daughter died in a fire seven years previously and she’s understandably never truly “moved on” (and don’t you hate it when people say that?). She’s tormented by her estranged husband Mike (Welsh player Luke Evans), her surly young son Thomas (Finn Little from the ill-fated remake of Storm Boy), and indeed herself as she endlessly dwells upon the past.
When, by chance, Thomas attends a birthday party for his friend Jeremy (Indi Serafin), Lizzie spies Jeremy’s little sister Lola (Annika Whiteley) and is immediately stricken. However, while another movie would have perhaps featured her scarily stealing the child away as a substitute for her departed daughter, Farrant and screenwriters Luke Davies (an Oscar nominee for Lion) and David Regal instead have Lizzie going one step further and believing that the kid actually is her lost Rosie.
Befriending the girl’s parents, Claire (Yvonne Strahovski taking time out from TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale) and Bernard (bespectacled Richard Roxburgh), Lizzie is depicted as becoming more and more obsessed, although we know she would never hurt Lola, no matter how unhealthy her need becomes. Nevertheless, scenes where she gazes at the lass, sneakily brushes her hair and steals a peck on the cheek are pretty icky, and when we later see her alone and wailing, we’re left to wonder how dangerous she might get if provoked.
Despite the flaws and some dull detail, this is worth persevering with due to Noomi’s disturbing characterisation, with that famous face that seemed so enraged and defiant in the Swedish Dragon Tattoo films suddenly appearing desperate and even deranged. You can’t look away, no matter how hard you try.
Angel of Mine (MA) is in cinemas now