Movie Review by Neils Hesse
Starring: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue
Director: John Polson
A death in a family, a make believe friend, a troubled father and an apparently psycho little girl – sound interesting…? David Callaway (Robert De Niro) has just lost his wife apparently to suicide. He decides to take his grief stricken young daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) away from their old environment to a new place that is devoid of any painful memories.
As they begin to settle into their new surroundings Emily tells her father about her new friend called Charlie. After having a bad dream one night David wakes up and notices that the light is on in the bathroom. To his shock he discovers a message on the walls of the bathroom that says he made his wife die. Then when Emily says that Charlie wrote the message, David starts to fear that his daughter’s grief is causing her to behave in this way and he is still convinced that Charlie is nothing more than a make believe friend.
As Emily’s bad behavior steadily worsens and the family cat mysteriously ends up dead having drowned in the bathroom, she still insists that it is all Charlie’s doing. David is faced with the increasing dilemma of finding out whether Charlie is real or if his daughter is lying and has turned into a very badly disturbed girl.
John Polson the director of the thriller SWIMFAN helms this psycho thriller and he sticks to the old fashioned thriller mode. Completely CGI free the film relies on dark nights, horrified looks on the characters’ faces and a haunting soundtrack to keep the pulse of fear beating. The main flaw in this film is the lack of character development, which is pivotal to making the actions of the characters credible. The father character should have been developed further as should the bond between father and daughter.
Robert De Niro does a decent job as the psychologist who has to deal with his traumatised daughter whilst also dealing with his own grief at losing his wife. Dakota Fanning shines, revelling in her role as the child who may or may not be a very sinister, sadistic character. She keeps you guessing as she effortlessly switches personalities between cute and menacing. Interestingly the chemistry between these two lead actors is not as natural as it should be, even though that is what’s required..
Nonetheless it is still an entertaining thriller but will not be a classic remaining chilling and clever but not downright scary.