It’s not often that I come across something I find hard to watch, but this psychological thriller knows how to press every uneasy button in me. Largely, what I put a limit on is any cruelty done to children in films (I know, I know, it’s acting – it’s still a bitter pill to swallow). Emelie (2015) hits this nail right on the head, presenting every parent’s nightmare when they get a babysitter to watch the kids for the night.
This home-invasion thriller has largely received good reviews from critics who praised its ability to be more insidious than going for cheap scares, though many casual watchers were turned off by the slow build that – they felt – didn’t amount to a satisfying enough climax. Emelie (2015) is the classic story of a mother and father who want nothing more than to escape the stress of their lives for one night and enjoy a night out for their anniversary. When their regular babysitter is unable to make it, they’re forced to hire a “friend” of hers. No sweet-smiling young woman is as she seems though, and the morbid tasks she has them perform are tests that reveal something more dramatic.
Like a lot of other indie film directors, Michael Thelin’s repertoire largely consists of shorts, TV movies, and documentaries with Emelie (2015) being his only theatrical full-length feature film. Despite the unfamiliar director and the star, Sarah Bolger, largely being a TV actress or sporting a supporting role in larger scale films, this movie manages well on its own. Bolger is withdrawn and threatening and the set-up of the dimly lit scenes (that seem to grow darker as the film progresses) and unsettling sound design makes it so that the audience can never really sit still or comfortably.
How domestically familiar this concept is might be what makes this film all the more unsettling. Though the plot is a bit exaggerated from what could possibly happen with a babysitter, it still highlights the worst-case scenario that parents all have running through their heads when they leave their children alone with someone.
Many people complained about the slow pace of the film, but I found that the agonizing pace really added to the sense of dread that the audience could feel mounting throughout the piece. If you need immediacy in action, then of course this film isn’t for you – you’ve been warned. If you’re a more patient viewer, this film isn’t bad by any stretch. Leading up until the final act, you get the feeling that nothing will end happily. I’m not going to ruin the ending, but the softening of the ending was unexpected (considering the hell that the child characters were put through from the get-go).
It’s not by any means a “feel good” film, though I’m sure I didn’t have to tell you that. It’s a bummer through-and-through. There’s nothing too harsh or over-dramatic, but I’d advise that you watch something happier before going to bed after this movie. I know I did.