Sleeping rough, working for cash in his dirty hands, no questions asked, just random abuse hurled by passers-by who see nothing but a European immigrant, Tomaz has been through worse, a former soldier in a border war over some petty dispute between his homeland and their neighbours. Now living in London, every night in his dreams he is back in the cabin in the forest by the checkpoint, waking screaming and weeping.

Rescued from the streets by Sister Claire, she knows of a place where his skills might be of use, the home of Magda and her invalid mother, the house in desperate in need of repair, Magda in need of company no matter that her reclusive mother does not approve, and Tomaz in need of a place to stay.

Written and directed by Romola Garai, Amulet takes its name from the crowned carved figure which Tomaz found in the forest which has accompanied him on his travels, a pilgrim seeking a forgiveness he feels he cannot ask for, the object perhaps marking him though for what he does not know, his hopes for better things short lived as the weight of Magda’s burden becomes apparent.

The house almost a prison of water-stained plaster and wallpaper, of ancient plumbing which spews black water, Tomaz (God’s Own Country’s Alec Secăreanu) is horrified first by the discovery of a deformed pale-skinned animal living within the waterworks then by the realisation that Magda lives in fear of her mother, a twisted and clawed monster who lives in the squalor of the attic, viciously attacking any who approach her with a strength beyond her shrivelled appearance.

Tomaz an unwanted but necessary presence in the household, Amulet is told in two timeframes, his experiences in the present echoing the events in the war when he too offered shelter to someone in need, Miriam (The Lobster‘s Angeliki Papoulia) displaced by the conflict and desperately seeking her daughter, he and Magda (Blade Runner 2049‘s Carla Juri) both scarred by hideous pasts and with no future.

Amulet longer than it needs to be and with the grotesqueness of the extremities at odds with the pensive character drama of obligation and regret they punctuate, it gives the impression of wanting to be regarded seriously but still keep its commercial options open, but stealing each of her few scenes is the magnificent Imelda Staunton as Sister Claire, cognisant of the existence of evil and that it can never be defeated, only kept in abeyance by an ongoing cost of human sacrifice.

Amulet’s UK premiere took place at FrightFest and it will be released in the UK on Friday 28th January



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