Rory Culkin, Isabelle Fuhrman, Judith Roberts, Stefanie Scott
Intrinsic Value Films
Southold, New York, 1843: Young Mary (Stefanie Scott), blood trickling from behind the blindfold tied around her eyes, is interrogated about the events surrounding her grandmother’s death. As the story jumps back in time, we witness Mary, raised in a repressively religious household, finding fleeting happiness in the arms of Eleanor (Isabelle Fuhrman), the home’s maid. Her family, who believe they are seeing, speaking, and acting on God’s behalf, view the girls’ relationship as an abomination, to be dealt with as severely as possible. The couple attempt to carry on in secret, but someone is always watching, or listening, and the wages of perceived sin threaten to become death, with the tension only heightened by the arrival of an enigmatic stranger (Rory Culkin) and the revelation of forces other than the Lord at work.
“Fear and weakness keep us here, not devotion,” says Theodore (PJ Sosko), the guard who has been disabled to assure he remains on the property, and that sums up THE LAST THING MARY SAW in a single evocative sentence. First-time feature writer/director Edoardo Vitaletti swiftly establishes an oppressive, intolerant milieu in which the inability to recite the Lord’s Prayer can be punishable by a rifle shot. Within this claustrophobic, starkly photographed environment, two actresses recognizable from contemporary genre stories – INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3’s Scott and ORPHAN and CELL’s Fuhrman – slip easily and compassionately into the skins of young women victimized by prejudices of a bygone era. Appropriate for a story about “the love that dare not speak its name,” lengthy stretches of THE LAST THING MARY SAW play without dialogue, the emotions conveyed by looks and gestures and atmosphere. Vitaletti, along with his first-rate craft collaborators and cast (also including ERASERHEAD’s Judith Roberts as the creepily imposing matriarch), has crafted an impressive debut film in which the horror seeps gradually into the artfully wrought picture, drawn out by the worst impulses of the human soul and exacerbated by supernatural malevolence. – Michael Gingold
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