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  Lodger, The Oh How The Ghost Of You Clings
Year: 2020
Director: Baptiste Drapeau
Stars: Alice Isaaz, Jacqueline Bisset, François-Dominique Blin, Bastien Ughetto, Anne Steffens, Judith Margolin, Antoine Macaud, Quentin Laclotte, Camille Herrera
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Julie Moreau (Alice Isaaz) is a shy nursing student who to help put herself through medical school has arranged to become a live-in assistant to an elderly widow named Elizabeth Dardelin (Jacqueline Bisset). Julie is able to stay in the large, creaky old house of Elizabeth's rent free, and get paid for the privilege, so considers that a win, but what she was not counting on is the widow’s husband, who really should be dead except Elizabeth has other ideas about that. She lays out his clothes - he was a sea Captain - and talks to them, makes meals for him despite him having no corporeal form, and encourages Julie to interact with... nothing.

You may think you have the measure of this wildly eccentric French item, which seems more weird the more you think about it in retrospect even if it does not wholly occur to you as it is unfolding. The fact that director Baptiste Drapeau was content to answer some pressing questions about what the hell was going on while resisting the temptation to explain the whole premise served up a horror that was sure to frustrate some while pleasing others who found its sustained mysteries appealing. It was a risky proposition the filmmaker was making, but certain to find a cult audience among those who preferred their movies to take chances.

The storyline was carried by two strong performances from Isaaz and Bisset, who sold what was admittedly absurd through sheer conviction in their delivery. Julie has trouble getting along with her fellow students, and while there is a nice boy called Manu (Bastien Ughetto) who she strikes up a tentative relationship with, when he participates in vulgar behaviour at a boorish party he invited her to, she wishes she had never met him; interestingly, he doesn't come across as that bad of a guy, he simply misjudged the rather prim Julie's boundaries. Nevertheless, though she is looking for love, she is not going to get it in the arms of Manu.

This somewhat backs Julie into a corner that she will share with the only other man around who is eligible, polite, romantic and considerate, all the things she seeks in a partner. Unfortunately for her sanity, this is Victor, and he is the deceased husband of her employer. So how does that work? Safe to say, it really doesn't, as Elizabeth is pathologically jealous of her spouse, now a medical dummy Julie brought home because she wanted to indulge the widow's delusions, thinking they were charming. But strangely, Victor is communicating with them both from beyond the grave, or at least we think he is, but we're not sure, and could be manipulating each of them to get his way. That way being forging romance with the innocent Julie.

The Lodger was called Messe Basse in France, meaning Whispering, which is a better title since it encapsulates the creepy, shivery mood better than the retitling that let's face it, has been used far too many times before. It was a film that would not possibly pass the Bechdel Test seeing as how we have two women often alone on the screen, fair enough, but they are almost always talking about a man, Victor, even though he may not exist anymore. Was his personality such that he could dominate them from beyond the grave, be he a ghost or not? What did that say for the lovelorn Julie and Elizabeth that they could not see a way out of this psychological trap, or were they actually in control of their own relationship in a way that a living man would merely disappoint them? It was difficult to settle on an answer to much of this, but it was so committed to its weirdness that it carried you along with ease, so much so that you may not want any concrete answers by the end. Tres bizarre.

[The Lodger will be available on Digital Download from 18th October 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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