The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
A girl wakes up in a body she doesn’t remember, in a life she doesn’t know. As she struggles to put the pieces together, she realizes there’s more than one way to leave.
In his second feature, Michael Bachochin manages to capture the claustrophobic emptiness of Naomi’s life. It’s an accurate visualisation of the quiet chaos depression can cause, with everything in the home feeling alien to both Naomi and the audience. Well paced, especially in the first two thirds, he’s able to make us feel as trapped as Naomi and shows us just enough, but never too much, that leaves the audience questioning – is Naomi mad, is fiancé Lucas hiding something, and are we even in the real world?
Artist Naomi has no memory of her life and finds herself dreaming of falling and drowning every night. When she rediscovers her ability to paint, she also discovers she can travel through the paintings to alternate locations… perhaps realities? As she starts to learn more through the paintings, she starts to question everything and everyone.
The film has three distinct sections, and whilst they work separately, the sudden style change in the last 30 minutes felt off kilter and has been a point of contention for many viewers. Losing some of the dramatic tension that had slowly been built through the rest of the plot, it does feel like a sharp change. Even though the ending feels unfinished, it doesn’t tarnish what is otherwise a compelling mystery and study on depression and isolation.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Naomi Prentice is hypnotising in the lead role. Managing to capture depressed, suicidal, inquisitive, ecstatic, and devastated she shows her full range in a role that could be very dull in someone else’s hands. Naomi as a character becomes more and more interesting as discoveries are revealed through her paintings and the chemistry between her and Hattie Smith’s Mikayla is a highlight of the film.
Fiance Lucas is painfully unsympathetic for the first half of the film; he seems to take Naomi’s depression as a personal attack on him, however I loved the question mark that began to surround what his role in Naomi’s memory loss was.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
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The scenes set within the paintings feel like art themselves, and the shots of Naomi drowning feel heavily influenced by the art world. Within the home Naomi and Lucas share, the design team are able to make it feel like a dream home and yet completely void of love and emotion to Naomi.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is perfectly balanced with long periods of silence or voiceover. So much of the film follows Naomi alone and lost in this world she doesn’t remember, and the score delicately flows through, highlighting her confusion and loss.
It’s hard to ignore the shift change in the final 30 minutes that feels like a disservice to the quiet psychological thriller that had been building for the majority of the runtime. However, even if the ending does leave you unsatisfied, the core of the film gives an honest and raw portrayal of mental illness; one that’s hard to match or ignore.