Cathy (Kiernan Shipka) leads a happy, sheltered life with her parents and siblings. But when her father suddenly dies, her mother Corrine (Heather Graham) doesn’t know what else to do – so she returns to her parents, despite the falling out she had with them. But once they’re there, it becomes clear that Cathy’s grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) doesn’t want the children there. Instead of a warm welcome and a safe haven, Cathy, her older brother Christopher (Mason Dye) and their two younger, still incomprehending siblings get locked into the attic for an indeterminate amount of time, with only occasional visits by their cruel, religious grandmother and their flighty mother.
I am not entirely sure why I started watching this film or why I finished it. The entire set-up is so convoluted, the acting is so very mediocre (apart from Ellen Burstyn and Heather Graham) and then the incest… but it does go by rather quickly and I watched it with a kind of horrified fascination.
I haven’t read the novel. I read the first few chapters or so, but then I lost interest. But I had heard that it was mostly famous for the incest angle, though I had forgotten that bit as I started to watch the film. It came to me again rather quickly – they are not exactly subtle about dropping the hints about what’s coming – but I’m not sure if I’d have started watching it if I had known. It’s one thing when incest is presented as a fucked-up thing in a difficult world, and quite another when it becomes the one way to (romantic) happiness.
Anyway, while that part was certainly problematic for me, it wasn’t the only thing I struggled with in the movie. There was also the totally bland mediocrity of it. The entire production but most of all the acting was just so unexciting, so whatever. It wasn’t really bad, but it wasn’t really good either.
With the exception of Ellen Burstyn and Heather Graham who were both really good and gave their respective characters enough weight to make them believable. Something the children didn’t manage, so they remain colorless and your honestly not sure why you should root for them (apart from the fact, of course, that children should not be locked up in an attic and ignored).
Unfortunately the film doesn’t seem to know that its most interesting character is Corrine. She really was the only one I wanted to know more about – and we barely get anything about her. Instead you’re stuck with rolling your eyes at the doe-eyed Cathy and the one-dimensional Christopher.