The morning the tragedy occurred was just like any other day until Julia Lofting (Mia Farrow) was serving breakfast for her daughter Kate (Sophie Ward). Her husband Magnus (Keir Dullea) was called down to the table, and conversation was mundane, but then Kate began to choke on a piece of apple. It was lodged in her throat, and not knowing what to do Julia tried to take out the food with her fingers as Magnus called for an ambulance. That wasn't working, so in desperation she took a kitchen knife and attempted a tracheotomy. Soon after, Kate was dead.
The film which Full Circle, also known as The Haunting of Julia, was most compared to when it was released was Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, thanks to it opening with a dramatic death of a child, and continuing with one parent convinced she is being visited by that child's spirit until a bigger picture is made clear, one which involves an unpleasant surprise. The author of the novel this was based on was Peter Straub, and he had been writing that around the time the film was released, but it was apparent if he hadn't had this foremost in his mind when he was penning the story, director Richard Loncraine and his team were only too happy to court allusions to the other work.
Of course, Don't Look Now had been based on a Daphne du Maurier tale, so it could have been Straub was influenced in that way, but to be fair Full Circle headed off in a different direction once it had established its ghost story credentials, and was not above throwing in more deaths than were in the book to keep the plot simmering. Though even then, this was one hell of a drab movie, a British-Canadian production shot in London at its gloomiest, with everything apart from the bloodstains seemingly captured in shades of grey, as if the whole film was in mourning. The narrative revolved around Julia's crushing guilt at not being able to save her daughter, which leads her to leave her husband once she's out of hospital.
Possibly still suffering from shock, she moves into an old house in the city's fairly well off but rather crumbling areas, and sets about getting a job and seeing if she can live through her grief, but every so often she thinks she spies a little blonde girl who may or may not be a ghost version of the deceased. So far, so predictable, but Farrow's nervy performance, which you could argue was her signature style after Rosemary's Baby made her a star, offered more tension than watching Julia mope about the capital might have done otherwise, and the way that the place was depicted as so casually unfriendly lent an oppressive atmosphere to the proceedings. Soon Magnus is snooping around, determined to bring her back, but she doesn't want anything to do with him.
So in one way Julia is wallowing in the past by recalling her daughter, but in another she is rejecting it by refusing to engage with Magnus, and this theme of what has gone before being better left well alone is enforced throughout the rest of the film as she suspects Kate is not haunting her at all, so could there be someone else who wants her supernatural attention? Why, yes there is, but you have to wade through some pretty hackneyed spookiness to get to the explanation, as if all concerned were happy to regurgitate plenty of stuff we'd seen from ghost stories before - the seance which goes wrong, the creepy old ladies who know more than they're letting on, the big tragic secret no one likes to talk about that has triggered the strangeness. As long as they could deliver this business in the style of such a muted, depressive nature then they evidently believed you could be watching something fresh, but there's a mustiness to Full Circle which went beyond the overfamiliar. Music by Colin Towns.