“Best thriller of the year”: the Secret of Marrowbone
Joe reported from the Edinburgh International Film Festival screening of The Secret of Marrowbone (see here), but with our resident movie fiend Garth equally as excited by this film, we thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a second take:
The Secret of Marrowbone,
Directed by Sergio G Sánchez,
Starring George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Mia Goth, Matthew Stagg, Nicola Harrison
Psychological thriller. A mother has taken her four children back to her childhood home, a remote, run-down estate in rural America, after a disgrace fell upon the family. Her failing health and determination to keep her children safe means that she hasn’t got long to prepare the eldest child on how to keep the family together after she dies. When their abusive and criminal father catches up with the children he’s prepared to kill them all. Moving on in the story the children face another threat, a local lawyer who wants to complete the change of estate papers (and is wondering why the mother is never fit enough to see him), and their own desperation to escape the grounds.
When I got to see this film, which is the best thriller of the year, I had a host of movies that I’ve seen through my life to say were blended expertly together to make this film, which is also called Marrowbone. When talking to a few of the other reviewers who for once agreed with me, I realised something, if I mention even one of those films, even hint at them, then I’m going to ruin this one for you. So I’ve taken my time to formulate this review in my mind and try not to mention those films, but I am sure many of you will think of them when you see Marrowbone.
The main body of the film is the four children who are trying to stay together until the eldest child is 21 years old and can legally inherit the estate and guardianship of his younger siblings; we’re just a few weeks away from that, but it’s a dangerous time. George MacKay plays the eldest and he’s determined to keep them all together. They have set procedures for things that are going to happen, but the children still live mostly in happiness, their small world of the creaking, decayed large house being their entire world.
Charlie Heaton plays the younger brother, and you get a little hint of unhinged rage bubbling inside him, Mia Goth plays the only girl in the family who becomes a surrogate mother to the boys after the real mom dies; she’s great at playing the slightly unbalanced character who is barely hanging onto the reality of life, trying her best to play domestic normal but clearly something is very broken and hurt inside her. Playing the final child is young Matthew Stagg, the innocent of the bunch, wanting to be part of the grown up decisions but is overly protected. Before the mother dies in the film the children meet Anya Taylor-Joy, a local girl who instantly becomes a good friend to them (something they very much need), and it becomes an peaceful world for them.
It’s only as the date of MacKay’s birthday comes closer and closer that the trouble really begins. There is a secret hiding in the attic of the house, behind a staircase that ends abruptly in a walled-up doorway, one that the children fear, but the new threat of the lawyer is looming over them too. He’s in love with Taylor-Joy’s character Allie, and ambitious too, when he finds out that MacKay and Taylor-Joy are a couple he is more than capable of ruining everything.
The first ten minutes of the film made me feel like we were going to in for a soft film that was going to emulate one of the Famous Five storylines as the children and Allie play happily in the summer sun. But it’s not long before the darkness and tension takes over. Set around the early sixties the film uses the lack of technology to its benefit and twists and turns, but not so much that it confuses you. Sergio G Sánchez, here on his directorial debut (horror fans will know him for writing the creepy The Orphanage), manages to keep you on track and able to follow the story to the great ending.
The Secret of Marrowbone doesn’t have a high body count but it has more tension than any other thriller I’ve seen in a long time, I would love to be able to finish this review with a description based on other thrillers, but I won’t be doing you any favours and may accidentally blow a spoiler. Instead do yourself the biggest favour you can do when it comes to movies, get out and watch this film before someone mentions an important plot point to you, the perfect thriller experience.
Secret of Marrowbone is released in mid-July