April 13, 2018 Welcome the Stranger (Movie Review)
Darkly brooding, sultry and evocative, Welcome the Stranger arrived to Digital HD Tuesday, March 20, 2018, thanks to Sony Pictures.
On the wings of a bad break-up, Alice (Abbey Lee: Mad Max: Fury Road 2015, The Neon Demon 2016) finds herself seeking out her estranged brother, Ethan (Caleb Landry Jones: X-Men: First Class 2011, Get Out 2017), an illustrator who lives in a secluded estate in the woods. As the two begin to reacquaint themselves with one another – while avoiding entirely their family’s stormy past – Alice begins to question how her brother has managed to mysteriously inherit and keep his grand home. Whether related to the stress permeating the thick air of the home or simply a random occurrence, she also begins to have bizarrely haunting dreams that find her somersaulting out of bed in the night.
For his part, Ethan is seemingly preoccupied with drawing parallel lines, and fixating longingly on a painting of a circle of stones on the beach. He loses himself in these habits, so much so that he begins to lose his favorite pen and, possibly, his mind. While wavering on the precipice of sanity, the appearance of a random sinkhole in the backyard becomes a new cause for obsession, for both Ethan and Alice, as well.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the arrival of Ethan’s girlfriend Misty (Riley Keough: Mad Max: Fury Road 2015, It Comes at Night 2017) detracts attention away from this natural phenomenon and onto the sibling’s truly awkward and intense relationship. Clocking in at 94 minutes in-length, Welcome the Stranger was written and directed by Justin Kelly (I Am Michael 2015, King Cobra 2016), and also stars Rosemary Howard (True Story 2015, Split 2016) as the housekeeper and John Clofine (Dixieland 2015) as her son.
Billed as a Drama/Mystery, Welcome the Stranger is a Drama chock full of unanswered questions and curious leanings, with a gentle injection of Sci-Fi/Supernatural elements to add another dimension to its already eccentric and wandering storyline. In fact, this is a film that will easily polarize audiences, as its oft unanswered questions merely lead down pathways that open more and more doors.
Decidedly bizarre, Welcome the Stranger utilizes somber cinematography that deliciously translates its dark mood. A truly meandering story with an avant-garde plot and mysterious objective, this film leaves its viewers to ponder and debate, searching for their own meaning in the psychologically weighty ether. In short, much of what is seen on screen is metaphorical, which, in turn, weaves a visual prose that is open to much interpretation.
Throughout, there is a magnetic awkwardness to Alice and Ethan and their interactions, often a taboo familiarity. In their roles, Lee (Alice) and Jones (Ethan) do an astounding job of translating not only the psychological upheaval and confusion of their individual characters, but they also dance a finely-choreographed ballet around one another’s physical bodies to paint a curious picture through subtlety. At all times, there is a brooding intensity to the film and these characters, and Lee and Jones carry this heavy weight on their combined shoulders, relaying a story that is steeped in symbolism and never once goes for the obvious. In her role as Misty, Keough is equally outstanding, providing the pivotal catalyst for the story’s turning-point.
Filmed in New York State and with a wonderfully evocative yet delicate score, Welcome the Stranger is a curious film, if there is even one single word to describe this entire production. Due to its languid pace and elusive nature, sure, some may accuse the film of being pretentious or vapid, though others are certain to embrace its nebulous, confoundingly experimental aura. As such, Welcome the Stranger sets a thickly intense and lusciously brooding mood, offering up a darkly unique yet chic atmosphere that is ultimately enjoyable in its avant-garde approach to storytelling. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Welcome the Stranger 4.5 of 5 stars.