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RELIC Is A Haunting Metaphor For Family Heartbreak

Worried after her elderly mother disappears from the family home, a woman and her daughter set out to figure out what happened and the cause behind it. What they come to find goes beyond what they had prepared themselves for, and something that holds a deeper meaning beyond the screen. Written and directed by Natalie Erika James, Relic uses a haunted facade to perfectly embody a real-life tragedy that we likely all face in our lives — and it will undoubtedly stick with you.

Robyn Nevin as “Edna” and Emily Mortimer as “Kay” in Natalie Erika James’ RELIC. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

Settled alone in a reclusive country home, Edna (Robyn Nevin) begins to feel an uneasy presence surrounding her. Suffering from what seems to be dementia, Edna soon goes missing, with no trace of her whereabouts. Fearing for the worst, her daughter Kay (Emily Mortimer, Mary Poppins Returns) travels to the house, with her own daughter Sam (Bella Heathcote,  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) in tow, to begin searching. Their fears are not quelled by the state of the home, which has certainly seen some better days.

As the search continues, they are puzzled by Edna’s sudden appearance, as if she had never left. The whole situation proves difficult for Kay, who can’t ignore the reality that her mother needs help. With Edna’s behavior becoming more unusual, the idea of an assisted living home seems the best course of action. As they try to come to terms with Edna’s declining health, it seems as if something sinister is focusing on each of them.

Bella Heathcote as “Sam” in Natalie Erika James’ RELIC. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

The haunted house aesthetic is one I always adore in horror movies. There is such a beautiful dreary mood crafted that I find endearing — call me weird. The way the comfort of a home is turned on its head by paranoia and suspense is such an intriguing setup. It’s perhaps my favorite sub-genre of the horror category, though more often than not, I admit I feel let down by the final act. Relic was not one of those disappointments, however.

Great horror for me is when the filmmakers choose to build a story that plays on the real. Where supernatural happenings offer an artistic, otherworldly explanation to the true horrors in life we face. Relic takes us there, providing an escape from the sad reality of watching our loved ones begin to lose themselves. I don’t think there is a single person who hasn’t witnessed a parent or grandparent begin to battle mentally with their age. While this film seems on the surface to simply showcase a supernatural element to dementia, the true allegory is our own struggle to cope with it.

Robyn Nevin as “Edna” in Natalie Erika James’ RELIC. Courtesy of IFC Midnight. An IFC Midnight Release.

It’s a story that with every scare or moment of dread that is built, has a moment of solace and realistic expression of losing our matriarchal/patriarchal family pillar. This is one of few films I really feel a deep connection to in terms of its message. It reminded me of my own experience with my great grandmother, and also my own personal fear of one day possibly facing it with my mother, and perhaps myself.

It’s films like these that truly prove the horror genre to be more than a one-dimensional thought that some have. The real horrors lie in life, but through expression on film, we can contextualize that. There’s a sad, yet beautiful shot at the very end with the three women that is so powerful and relatable, it solidified my appreciation for the film’s final message.

RELIC is available on VOD/Digital Rental on July 10

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