Let’s stay inside.
The Lodge was supposed to release in 2019 but was delayed until 2020 (at least for a wide American release). Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s new vehicle (the excellent Goodnight Mommy is worth watching). We have another family focused drama following Grace (Riley Keough) as she tries to bond with her fiancé’s children Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh). To make matters worse, the children’s mother Laura (Alicia Silverstone) committed suicide after husband Richard (Richard Amritage) told her he wanted to finalize the divorce.
Things get a bit worse for the family as Richard strives to win the worst dad ever award as he takes the whole gang (in what appears to be the first time the kids meet Grace) for a holiday getaway at a remote cabin. Where Richard truly deserves scorn is his sudden need to leave for a couple days to do stuff at work…
What does Richard do? Well, it seems like he is a researcher as he has written a book about a cult where Grace was the sole survivor of a mass suicide. What his exact job entails is not revealed, and his need to leave doesn’t make a lot of sense. Further, he leaves after one night at the cabin, which begs the question: why they didn’t just leave a few days earlier.
The film struggles to get Grace alone with the kids, and this tension carries through for a while. The film opens strong, with powerhouse performances from Martell (who showcases devastating trauma without speaking a word) and McHugh. However, once we get to the cabin things begin to slog a bit.
After Richard leaves, Grace starts hearing and seeing things. Something seems wrong, and suddenly everything they had is missing. Questions of what happened and who is telling the truth abound as the film pounds towards a haunting final act.
It is weird to have a film start and end fairly strong, but still didn’t fully grab me. Issues of trauma, responsibility, cruelty, anger, and gaslighting are all present and these are themes I enjoy in film. However, I saw the ending coming too far away. Once the cards are shown we more or less just have to wait for things to move towards their expected finale.
What disappointed me the most is that I worry Fiala and Franz don’t have a diverse bag of tricks. Folks who have seen Goodnight Mommy will be looking for certain possibilities and will most likely figure out what is going on.
Another issue is the red herrings the film throws for us. Doors opening on their own or other moments meant only for the audience don’t inform the film but are meant to lead us astray. In order for things to work we have to allow a bit of faulty logic at many points, and this takes away from the film.
I liked the movie, despite my misgivings with it, The Lodge takes trauma seriously, and the unhealthy reactions we have when coping with trauma are taken to a disturbing extreme. I would describe this film as good-not-great but also good-but-should-have-been-great. The acting, directing, and dialogue all work, but we are missing something in the creepy stew made by two highly talented filmmakers. The actors are all fantastic and do their best with a script that forces a limitation on so many aspects of the story.
Despite the weaknesses, the film ends in a darkness that befits the setting. I am glad the directors pulled no punches. Fans of Goodnight Mommy will enjoy this one, but I don’t think it surpasses that little gem. (However, The Lodge is shot gorgeously—the technical aspects may surpass their first film).
Check it out at theaters if you can. Maybe I’m just a stick in the mud on this one.