The Invitation (2022)

The Invitation
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Writer: Blair Butler
Cast: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner, Virág Bárány, Courtney Taylor, Carol Ann Crawford
Seen on: 2.9.2022

Ever since the death of her parents, her mother dying only recently, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) has been feeling at a loss as she has no other family. Or so she thought. On a whim, she sends in a DNA kit to a website connecting relatives and lo and behold, there is a cousin of hers in the UK – Oliver (Hugh Skinner). And Oliver is not only overjoyed to meet Evie, he is also rich enough to invite her back to the UK to attend a wedding in the extended family and meet everybody. That includes not only her family, but also Walt (Thomas Doherty), her most charming host. But even as Evie settles into the luxurious life of old money, she can’t shake the sense that there is something more going on here.

The Invitation is not great, but it is good enough to be entertaining and Nathalie Emmanuel is radiant. Plus, it has the most menacing manicure I have ever seen in my life.

The film poster showing Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) dressed in a bridal gown, blood on her mouth and with rolled back eyes sitting on a throne. Walt (Thomas Doherty) ist standing behind her, one hand on her shoulder.

The Invitation is an atmospheric piece, but its biggest strength lies in Nathalie Emmanuel and her charming Evie. Evie is not naive – as one may assume because who travels overseas with a complete stranger? She is simply very, very hungry for family. And while she realizes that things are probably too good to be true, they are also too good to resist, which I thought was a very interesting take. Emmanuel’s performance is engaging and warm, and it’s easy to feel with Evie, so she makes an excellent heart of the film.

It is a pity, though, that the film doesn’t really go into the racial politics it hints at. Evie as the only Black woman in the family, the offspring of an affair with a stablehand long ago introduces many possibilities how the story could have talked about race and class. But it only hints at those things, never going into depth or drawing any realy conclusions.

Walt (Thomas Doherty) smiling at Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel).

Instead the film touches on familiar literary material (saying which does give away some of the film), at first very subtly with a name here and there, but then full out towards the end. I usually like those allusions but here it just emphasizes that the additions to the canon aren’t necessarily very good, or as good as the original.

That being said, the film does well in being creepy and atmospheric, with probably the strongest moment the manicure I mentioned before. And it definitely has enough charm and good looks (as a movie and in the main couple) to keep you interested. It may not be the movie of the year, but it is a nice watch.

Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) looking flabbergasted.

Summarizing: entertaining enough.

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