Friday, April 29, 2011

Cool Stuff To Watch Instantly: The Cry of the Owl

Patricia Highsmith is noted for a grim and unique outlook. Her recurring series character was not a detective hero but sociopathic killer Tom Ripley brought to life with dark charm by Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley. She's also famous for Hitcockian treatment in her queen-mother-of-misunderstandings tale, Strangers on a Train.

The Cry of the Owl, a 2009 film is based on a lesser-known Highsmith novel, but it's a great example as well of her dark perspective. It's available on Netflix Watch Instantly by way of Starz, which means it won't be streaming forever, so catch it while you can.

It's as twisty as it is dark, and it's wonderfully unusual. You haven't seen this before in quite this way.

The story focuses on Robert Forrester (Paddy Considine), who's going through a horrible divorce. He's left New York for a small town in presumably Pennsylvania where he works as a designer in an aeronautics firm.

In a chance glimpse, he catches the seemingly blissful Jenny Thierlof (Julia Styles) doing dishes. What he perceives as her happiness is comforting, so he returns to watch her, innocently and chastely from afar. Things like that never go well. Soon he's caught the attention of her boyfriend, Greg, and then of Jenny herself, who surprisingly invites him into her home.

Jenny believes in fate, romance and harbingers. Soon she's broken up with Greg and is pursuing connection with Robert, even as he struggles to disentangle him from his wife, a witch of twisty dimensions played wonderfully by Caroline Dhavernas. She comes into one arbitration meeting saying she's changed her mind and wants to make up before a "Just kidding."

Before long, a jealous Greg attacks Robert then disappears, and Robert's run of bad luck so far has been mild for what's ahead. Confusion, misunderstanding and terror ensue.

Adapted and directed by Jamie Thraves, the film is relentless in its realization of that Highsmith sensibility. It's not about crime and detection but about situations that spiral around strange characters.

It's very dark, but engrossing and a must for Highsmith fans.

See also
Earlier adaptation: Le cri du hibou


Erik Donald France said...

Ew, that sounds wonderfully chilling. Will check it out -- thanks for the review and advocacy~

Sidney said...

Thanks Erik.

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