October 29, 2018 Welcome To Mercy (Movie Review)
Old wounds can cause new ones, just as the sins of the parents are oft passed unto their children. So goes the tale of Welcome To Mercy, a brand-new Thriller, which arrives to select theaters, VOD and via digital platforms on Friday, November 2, 2018, thanks to the good folks at IFC Midnight.
Set equally in the present and the past, Welcome To Mercy revolves around Madeline (Kristen Ruhlin: Someone Marry Barry 2014, The Trouble With Mistletoe 2017), who has returned home to Latvia at her father Frank’s (Andrey Yahimovich) urging. With her young daughter Willow (Sophia Massa in her acting debut) in tow, she finds herself on the doorstep of the small family cabin in the woods. Though, upon her arrival, she and Willow receive a decidedly cold reception from Yelena (Svetlana Ivannikova), Madeline’s estranged mother.
One awkward day later, with local priest Father Joseph (Juris Strenga) present to attempt to staunch some of the tension between family members, Yelena, Madeline and Willow begin to pray for Frank’s health. Almost instantly, Madeline undergoes a traumatic stigmatic experience that will force her to seek answers at the cloistered convent of Mercy. Here, the Mother Superior (Eileen Davies: Sightseers 2012, The Theory of Everything 2014) invites Madeline to explore her past, in hopes of saving her future. Immediately befriended by the curious August (Lily Newmark: Pin Cushion 2017, Solo: A Star Wars Story 2018), Madeline must learn to navigate the hallways of the cloister to discover the hidden truth of her family’s past.
Clocking in at 103 minutes in-length, Welcome To Mercy – originally entitled Beatus – was directed by Tommy Bertelsen (Exiles short 2013, Feed 2017) and written by Actress Ruhlin (Life-ers TV movie 2010). It also features Dainis Grube (Dream Team 1935 2012, The Pagan King 2018) as Young Frank; Toms Liepajnieks (Exiled 2016, Viking 2016) as Young Father Joseph; Ieva Seglina (Lazarus short 2015, Apaksstraume short 2016) as Young Yelena; Marta Timofeeva (Spacekeeper 2017, Gatekeeper of the Galaxy 2019) as Young Madeline; and an adorable, fluffy white kitten.
Welcome To Mercy fits perfectly into the Thriller genre, with plenty of religiosity to give any Rome-o-phobes the creeps. While the story contains several slight Horror elements, there’s nothing truly terrifying, though there is a solid eeriness that permeates the tale as Madeline searches for her much-needed answers. This comes from the intensity of the story and the ensemble cast’s superb acting skills.
In the lead role – and also the writer of this wonderful screenplay – Ruhlin injects a meticulous yet somber nature into her Madeline, a young mother who is desperate to save her daughter’s future. She is able to face her travails in the name of love, and yet there are some truly demonic elements fighting her every step of the way. Despite the eccentricity of her situation, Madeline is like many mothers: trying to overcome and unravel elements of her past in order to properly face her future.
As the curious and oft confusing August, Newmark does a splendid job of portraying the young, wide-eyed woman who has ended up at the cloister and is desperate for the sense of friendship and camaraderie that she so desperately needs to feel whole. Newmark injects a sensuality into her character, one that, when the story begins to spiral toward its climax, offers a befitting glimpse into something darker. She is, in effect, the perfect foil to Madeline’s dedicated motherhood; a woman with seemingly no familial ties or limits.
As with the majority of IFC Midnight productions, Welcome To Mercy is beautifully done with strikingly moody cinematography (Igor Kropotov: The Pale of Settlement short 2013, There Is a New World Somewhere 2015) set in the lovely Latvian countryside, a wonderful original score by Michael Shuman, superb acting and an intriguing premise. For those that take the film’s conclusion literally, there might be a drop of disappointment, as this is a story that serves as a greater metaphor for the things we inherit from our families.
In short, Welcome To Mercy is an intelligent Thriller, one with a pleasing aesthetic but a sinfully dark premise embedded in its lovely layers. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Welcome To Mercy 4 of 5 stars.