In her eighties and living alone, widow Edna is proud and stubborn, but while physically robust she is also increasingly forgetful. A call from concerned neighbours who have not seen Edna for several days alerts the police which brings Kay and Sam, her daughter and granddaughter; expecting the worst, they instead find that she is missing, all her belongings in place and the car parked in the drive.
Neither Kay nor Sam voice their deepest dread but the hope that Edna will be found safe is slim, so they spend the days helping the police search the surrounding forests and the nights waiting at the house where Kay tells Sam her mother believed that something was coming into the house, a fear she dismissed but which resurfaces when Edna returns, simply standing in her kitchen, confused but healthy, refusing to say where she has been or how she came by the bruises on her body.
Directed by Natalie Erika James from a script co-written with Christian White, Relic takes three generations and puts them together in a house of shadow and fading memory, Gods of Egypt‘s Robyn Nevin as Edna, proud and regal matriarch, Spectral‘s Emily Mortimer as Kay and The Neon Demon‘s Bella Heathcote as Sam, trying too late to make up for their lack of contact with the matriarch of the family and now balancing guilt and outside obligations.
A nightmare of decay filled with fading photographs and the all-consuming earth, it puts Kay in the position of watching a parent become a stranger, a person once loved transforming into an echo of their former self, a living death which she will one day inherit as surely as the house, a relic within a relic, filled with the objects of generations past, their meaning lost to time.
Edna fragile and grateful in her quieter moments yet possessed by an unkind and hurtful temper which flares violently and unpredictably, Relic can be seen as an end-of-life counterpart to The Babadook’s cautionary bedtime tale of a child who cannot be controlled, and there is also much of Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves as Kay and Sam fall into the labyrinth which hold Edna’s mind and body prisoner.
The Australian national identity often depicted as profoundly masculine, Relic instead presents a trio of headstrong and capable women in the lead roles but in keeping with the feminine trait of cooperation the approach is atypical in horror in that it is not directly confrontational, less about defeating the threat which encroaches upon their home and family as accepting the inevitability of it and making the best in the time they have left.
Relic will be in cinemas and available on digital download from 30th October