Friday, September 16, 2011

The Holding (2011)

We all make decisions every day; they help us shape our lives to work towards our expectations. Sometimes we have to make drastic ones which can change the lives of our loved ones and the course of our futures forever. For every action is a consequence that we must live with.

It’s the age-old question of ‘How far would you go to protect your family?’

The Holding

No, this isn’t the latest film in the Saw franchise, but Susan Jacobson’s directional debut, The Holding. Cassie Naylor (Kierston Wareing) made the decision to kill and bury her husband, Dean (Christopher Brand), with the help of her aging farmhand, Cooper (David Bradley). This wasn’t an unprovoked cold-blooded murder. Dean had been sexually abusing his 16-year-old daughter Hannah (Skye Lourie) before his unplanned departure from the family home; Cassie had to do something to protect her loved ones.

Eight months later, she’s struggling to keep her dysfunctional family together and their small debt-ridden cattle farm afloat. “Everyone has secrets. It’s how the world works,” suggests youngest child Amy (Maisie Lloyd). Cassie tries to hide her secret from her daughters although she is still suffering with guilt. Unbeknown to her, Amy has a secret of her own. She witnessed the murder from her bedroom window.

Nearby neighbour Karsten (Terry Stone) and his son Noah (Jake Curran) offer to buy the farm but then a stranger named Aden (Vincent Regan) appears, claiming to be an old acquaintance of Dean. Amy believes he is an angel sent down from heaven to protect or avenge them. Little do they know that he is harbouring a few secrets of his own.

With a script written by James Dormer, The Holding could have taken the predictable Hollywood route and created a British retelling of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992), Cape Fear (1991) or Single White Female (1992). It does have an essence of Fatal Attraction (1987) in the third act, replacing a bunny hot pot for the slaughter of a bull, but this has more reference to the story than a jilted lover extracting revenge. 

There’s a very strong sense of femininity in this film. The Naylor women aren’t the usual characters we see portrayed in thrillers. They are strong and level-headed – they don’t just get the power to overcome the enemy at the end of the film. This brings me to wonder why Cassie would allow a random stranger into her home when she has coped on her own for the past eight months. Was it her way of dealing with the guilt?

Regan’s role reminded me of Terry O’Quinn’s role in The Stepfather (1987) with a hint of Glenn Close mixed in. It’s interesting to see how Hannah and Aden develop as he tries to become a father figure, mimicking a scene from Stepfather when he objects to her having a boyfriend and taking drastic action.

The Holding has a very strong theme of domestic abuse, although it doesn’t particularly manipulate this theme for the shock factor. We are given unpleasant descriptions, but the way which this is covered raises the issues about the effects abuse has on people and how they are scarred for life.

Jacobson’s setting of a remote farm in the Peak District is perfect, creating the feeling of isolation and being so far from civilisation. This desolate setting does exactly the same as the Outback does for Australia in films such as Wolf Creek (2005). The harsh sounding wind adds to the tension.

The Holding is a moralistic thriller, which doesn’t seem to have succumbed to the Hollywood method of filmmaking. It has a hint of Fatal Attraction and The Stepfather but keeps its British roots firmly in the ground. The themes of domestic abuse are executed effectively leaving the unpleasant aspects of the world deeply stored in your head. Jacobson is a director to look out for.

No comments:

Post a Comment