March 12, 2019 Elizabeth Harvest (Movie Review)
Boredom and curiosity are not a girl’s best friend! Leave any and all preconceived notions at the door when you dig into Elizabeth Harvest, a sinister new Thriller that initially premiered at 2018’s South by Southwest Film Festival. Thereafter the film made a theatrical appearance in August of last year via IFC Films, arrived on DVD in December thanks to Shout! Factory, and now makes it way to the UK Market through The Movie Partnership arriving there to VOD on Monday, April 1, 2019. This is no April Fool’s joke!
Elizabeth (Abbey Lee: The Neon Demon 2016, Welcome the Stranger 2018) awakens from her former life to find herself a newlywed, married to a significantly older gentleman, brilliant scientist Henry (Ciarán Hinds: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 2011, The Woman in Black 2012). He whisks her off to his breathtaking, modern estate in the hills, where he fully intends to spoil her with jewels, fine clothing, art, and so much more.
As Henry provides Elizabeth a tour of her lavish new home, she is introduced to the staff — Claire (Carla Gugino: Watchmen 2009, Gerald’s Game 2017) and a blind young man named Oliver (Matthew Beard: When Did You Last See Father? 2007, The Imitation Game 2014). Also on this tour, Elizabeth learns that each door in the home has a biometric thumbprint reader, and one door in particular is off-limits. “You’re my wife and I trust you implicitly,” Henry promises ominously.
When he is called away on business for a day, boredom and curiosity get the better of Elizabeth, and what she discovers inside that locked room will unearth a web of secrets that runs so deep, you will never guess where this story is headed. Clocking in at 104 minutes, Elizabeth Harvest was both written and directed by the exceptionally talented Sebastian Gutierrez (Girl Walks Into a Bar 2011, Jett series). It also stars Dylan Baker (Revolutionary Road 2008, Selma 2014).
A modern retelling of the Charles Perrault fairy tale “Bluebeard,” the moral remains intact here and provides a multi-layered warning about curiosity and how it can kill much more than just cats. With an emphasis on intensity of mood, it would be hard not to compare Elizabeth Harvest to another of Abbey Lee’s films, 2016’s The Neon Demon. At least, that is, on a base level: both are cautionary tales that set a striking mood. While the film is billed as a Thriller, there is a definite Science Fiction element to its truly unique story, one that is heavily steeped in modern scientific research frontiers. The less you know going in, the better, so we’ll leave it at that.
What is truly impressive about the film, aside from its wonderfully intelligent and unique script, is its small but fierce cast of five. In the lead, Lee gives a phenomenal performance. A phoenix who rebirths herself in each new role she tackles, here she portrays the intimidated young Elizabeth flawlessly, perfectly capturing the uncertainty of a new marriage and home, and all of the myriad responsibilities that come with both. When the story digs deeper and shifts, Lee oft presents a ferocity that, while suited to her character, shows the fluid diversity of her acting chops. In his role, Hinds is suitably elegant in the most sinister way. Fully believable as a secretive scientific researcher and equally alluring in his classy facade, he helps to seduce viewers into the story much as he has lured his new wife into his home.
Gugino and Beard are the wild cards here. Gugino’s Claire is initially a small piece of the puzzle, though with time her flat character grows well-rounded and brings along great revelations. Beard’s Oliver is very similar, in this sense. The seasoned and always talented Gugino provides a classy performance that rounds out the story, one that we can’t say much about without dropping too many hints. Beard, in this sense, is the same: an exceptional talent who takes a fairly flat background character and turns him into an arresting and pivotal piece of the puzzle.
In addition to its exemplary cast, Elizabeth Harvest sports some stunning cinematography from Cale Finot (Hotel Noir 2012, Jett series). This is complemented flawlessly with an elegant original score by Faris Badwan (Kaboom 2010, The Duke of Burgundy 2014) and Rachel Zeffira (The Duke of Burgundy 2014, The Captive 2014) that perfectly accentuates the on-screen action at all times.
In short, Elizabeth Harvest does a wonderful job on all fronts. With a phenomenal cast of only five actors, a splendid score, beautiful cinematography, and, perhaps most importantly, a unique as well as intelligent script, this is a film that is a must see. As far as the moral of the story, perhaps the biggest lesson that we should take away from Elizabeth Harvest is that simply because something can be done, this does not mean that it should be done. Heeding the warning and fully enjoying the film that it’s baked into, Cryptic Rock give Elizabeth Harvest 4.5 of 5 stars.