The Tall Man (2012)

The Tall Man
Director: Pascal Laugier
Writer: Pascal Laugier
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, Stephen McHattie, William B. Davis, Samantha Ferris, Colleen Wheeler, Eve Harlow
Part of: /slash Filmfestival

Julia (Jessica Biel) is the nurse in a small mining town that is slowly dying. There is barely any work and the continuous disappearance of children is also eroding the moral and social structure. According to town legend, it’s the Tall Man who takes the kids. Julia seems doubtful about that legend – but then her own child is taken. But Julia won’t give up and starts the slow unraveling of the events in the town.

The movie starts off absolutely great: it’s tense and scary and woah. But then the plot twists start and as soon as that happens, the tension goes out of the film and I just wanted to roll my eyes.

[Full-on SPOILERS]

The movie just tries way too hard to surprise the audience – which it accomplishes only partly (that Julia’s husband was involved in the whole thing was absolutely obvious to me from the moment he was first mentioned). But the surprises it achieves mostly come at the cost of logic and suspense of disbelief.

Basically, what’s revealed is that Julia’s son isn’t actually her son, but one of the kidnapped children, kidnapped back by his mother. And there’s no Tall Man, but Julia and her husband have been working for an organisation that saves children from their poor background from all over the world by stealing them and placing them with rich families.

Which is just, no. Really, no. Apart from the fact that I just couldn’t believe at all that an organisation like that would exist in the world, the moral of it is just so damn screwed. (Plus, children wouldn’t just forget their parents that way.) The movie’s ending does call this behavior into question, but calling it into question is just not good enough. This organisation and the people working for it are fucked up and some doubt is just too light.

But apart from that, Jessica Biel is fantastic. She rarely gets to show that she can act and she gets to do the full spectrum here. And the soundtrack was awesomely creepy. I just wish that they had finished the movie they started, instead of swerving off into loony territory with their plot twists.

Summarising: if (but only if) you are able to go along with the plot twists, I guess you’ll enjoy it.

8 thoughts on “The Tall Man (2012)

  1. While I agree that the reveal about her husband was far too obvious, I actually loved the part about the organisation that steals children. I don’t think that the movie wanted to tell us that it’s a good thing. IMHO, its not interested in giving (easy) answers, but to raise questions. I found it quite interesting, actually.

    • Maybe because I come from a social worker background, I thought that the question it raised were pretty redundant and could be and had been answered clearly and without a shadow of a doubt.

      • Hmm… that surprises me, to be honest. I don’t wanna spoil anything so I’ll try to be vague: While the kids came from a background of poverty, and not abuse, there ARE instances where the state steps in (i.e. the latter). So I thought it kinda was an escalation of what is already happening now, in extreme cases, thus raising an interesting question. Mind you, I’m not saying that I agree with them, but I think the question itself is a valid one. Anyway, that’s probably not a topic than can really be discussed in those short snippets ;-).

        • Maybe we should save it for the coffee conversation, but I’ll try to summarize my thoughts in short:

          Yes, the state sometimes steps in in cases of abuse. But getting children out of harm’s way is something completely different from abducting them, never letting them see their parents again and giving them a whole new identity. Even in cases of abuse, the children and their parents have a right to stay in touch and to keep their history as their own, even if its a painful one. And even though it seems infuriating that a child who has been abused and/or neglected by their parents actually should see them again, in most instances that’s also what the children want. Feelings in these situations are difficult, mixed and not always that clear-cut.

          Even if you want to spin that angle further and say that children in poverty are handicapped by circumstances (for which a case could be made) and that should be remedied, a secret organization that kidnaps children – even if done for the best intentions – is not an apt metaphor for what the state is doing. The state has clear rules, the parents know where their children are going and their rights are being respected.

          Plus, being poor is not a failing for which you should be punished by having taken your children away from you. Being poor is the system failing you. And that means, if that organization really wanted to help, it would work on changing the system. Which should be very possible for them as it seems to be a huge and very well connected organization.

          So, no to me interesting questions were raised by this movie. Instead it felt like it was written by somebody who hadn’t thought about the social system and how it works for longer than five minutes.

          • Hmm… Just to clarify: I never said or wanted to even remotely imply that what this organisation is doing and what the state is doing are one and the same thing. What I meant is that taking children away from their home is not completely without precedent. Of course, a private organisation kidnapping them, in case of poverty (and not “even” abuse) is not one, not two, but probably 10 steps further. Still, I found it interesting to think about it. For me it was a case of good intentions gone bad.

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