Blu-ray Review: Angel of Mine (2019)

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Shocked when her ex-husband Mike (Luke Evans) hands Lizzie (Noomi Rapace) papers announcing that he's going to sue her for full custody of their shared son Thomas (Finn Little), Mike steels his gaze and tells Lizzie, "he feels your darkness." And it's a darkness we see close-up in Strangerland director Kim Farrant's sophomore feature length fictional feature Angel of Mine, which, written by Lion scribe Luke Davies and television veteran David Regal, is based upon the 2008 French film L'empreinte de l'ange from director Safy Nebbou.

A nerve-wracking, intense psychological portrait of a woman who might be unraveling or — even scarier — might be onto something, Angel of Mine finds Lizzie developing a growing obsession with Lola (Annika Whiteley), a local seven-year-old, whom she believes might just be the daughter she lost seven years earlier.

The sister of one of her son's classmates, Lizzie follows her intuition to the exclusion of everything else and befriends Lola's mother Claire (Yvonne Strahovski) under the guise of being interested in buying the home that she and her husband Bernard (Richard Roxburgh) are trying to sell before they move far away. With the clock now ticking and the family's leave date drawing near, Lizzie grows increasingly desperate to not only spend time with the girl whose big brown eyes and face she feels resembles her own but also try to find some sort of evidence to back up her claim.

An at times harrowing and intentionally uncomfortable film that is utterly dependent upon the portrayal of Lizzie, thankfully Noomi Rapace — who also produced — is more than up to the task. Withholding details about the tragedy that has not only left its mark on the fragile, grief stricken Lizzie but also propels the film forward, like an expert poker player, writers Davies and Regal and director Farrant wait until it's absolutely necessary to reveal the cards Rapace holds close to her chest in a gut-wrenching confrontational scene between Rapace and an equally powerful Strahovski.

Mistakenly advertised as a traditional thriller, Angel of Mine is more reminiscent of a Cassavetes picture with Lizzie a Woman Under the Influence of grief. And while it does test a viewer's patience early on as we struggle to see where the film is going and find ourselves cringing as Rapace closes in on the family as a target, overall, despite some issues with pacing, Farrant's film is a largely successful one.

Benefiting strongly from having a woman at the helm as well as her refusal to amp up early scenes with the two women or frame Lizzie like Glenn Close's Alex in Fatal Attraction, Angel is made with sensitivity and compassion, even when it completely holds us off balance. With a central thesis that incidentally ties in with the current Me Too debate since it asks us whether or not we should "believe all women," when it comes to Lizzie and/or Claire, Farrant urges us to do just that and believe that what they say is true for them, regardless of where the storyline actually goes.

A solidly constructed Australian feature, Angel of Mine takes some real risks by not falling into the well known rhythm of a traditional work of suspense and it's a gamble that pays off mightily, thanks to the ensemble. Although it's unsettling to say the least to ask us to — as Luke Evans' Mike might say — feel Lizzie's darkness, with performances such as these and a director well matched to the material, we're more than eager to see this Angel through whatever hell it might endure, since we know that whatever the outcome, we're going to see some light.

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