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FILM REVIEW: Repression (2020)

Updated: Jan 25

Repression - Now Streaming Review

Director: Elbert van Strien

Starring: Thekla Reuten, Elijah Wolf, Emun Elliott, Sam Hazeldine, Peter Mullan

Written by: Ben Hopkins, Elbert van Strien

Produced by: Burny Bos, Claudia Brandt, Elbert van Strien

Cinematography by: Guido van Gennep

Original Score by: Hans Otten, Maurits Overdulve


A therapist begins to lose her grip on reality when a ten-year-old boy claims he can control her future.


If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make any sound? That’s sort of the basic crux of ‘Repression’ (previously entitled Marionette) a truly ambitious and beautifully crafted film that sadly lets its big ideas take over a little too much at the expense of the actual story.

Thekla Reuten plays Marianne, a child therapist who has moved from her spacious and expensive home in upstate New York to gloomy Northern Scotland because, as she claims she “likes the rain” We soon find out that her relocation is actually because her husband has tragically died in a car accident, which she seems to take the blame for. Her harrowing past begins to catch up with her after she meets one of her new patients Manny, who doesn’t speak and spends most of his spare time sketching disturbing images of fatal accidents. Something’s not quite right with Manny as he declares that he can “make things happen”

Co-written and directed by Dutch filmmaker Elbert van Strien and based on one of his earliest short films from 1993, ‘Repression’ spends most of its time throwing out red herrings and philosophical questions about the human mind. It feels very much like something Christopher Nolan would’ve had a stab at earlier in his career before studios were throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at his feet. It’s a bit prototypical in its approach. Marianne falls for one of the locals which initiates thoughts of self guilt, questioning her decisions and possibly even harbouring resentment. This then leads into her self doubt and after some intense interactions with Manny, questioning her own reality. It definitely made me think about Brad Anderson’s 2004 mystery thriller ‘The Machinist’ a little bit.

Van Strien’s direction is beautiful, especially in highlighting the gothic sensibilities of the institution and evoking some genuine ambience during the Scottish shoreline scenes. He’s clearly a seasoned filmmaker. Hard to say anything negative about the cast either. For all my money Peter Mullan is one of the greatest living actors of his generation whose work is criminally overlooked and I would’ve liked to have seen him on my screen a lot more than he is here. He does open the film in a shockingly intriguing scene that actually could have been cut down slightly in the interest of a reveal later on in the film. Reuten is on form too, helped by encouraging performances from Emun Elliott, Rebecca Front and Bill Paterson.

The editing in general could have been improved particularly concerning the dialogue, which is terribly clunky in places and feels redundant. The huge reveal at the end is over-written and perhaps would have had more impact if everything wasn’t spelled out to us by Marianne. Her narration, which seems to appear at random, is blatant exposition but disguised as an inner monologue. That being said, the setup to the finale certainly does have its tense moments and I can see why some might be tempted to label it a ‘Hitchcockian’ thriller. The multitude of twists, while a bit taxing on the brain, are engaging and thought provoking but unfortunately not the unforeseen revelations they’re intended to be. If you’re spiritually inclined the film may even make you ask profound questions about life however the religious connotations might seem preachy to some.

Verdict: ⭐⭐⭐

- Gavin Logan

Signature Entertainment presents 'Repression' on Amazon Prime Video 1st April

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