26 September 2023

Strange But True

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Reviewed by Victor Rebikoff.

Director: Rowan Athale, Icon Film Distribution, M 96 Minutes.

A rather perplexing conception can best describe the premise of the captivating drama from rookie director Rowan Athale (‘The Rise’) relating to a young woman falling pregnant five years after her boyfriend’s tragic death in a car accident.

Much to the family’s shock a highly pregnant Melissa (Margaret Qualley – Sidney Hall’) arrives at her boyfriend’s home and is met by his injured brother Philip (Nick Robinson-‘Being Charlie’) where she is challenged by her dead son’s mother Charlene (Amy Ryan –Goosebumps’).

Charlene rejects her assertion that her late son Ronnie (Connor Jessup –‘Closet Monster’) could be the father of her unborn child, with Melissa insisting she had only ever been intimate with him as revealed in a number of flashback scenes.

Melissa is then told to leave as Charlene wastes little time in using her librarian skills to check out if a conception is possible from a dead person’s frozen sperm following such a lengthy period of time.

Simultaneously, Philip still on crutches from his own accident, speaks to some of Melissa’s friends on the veracity of her claim before visiting her at the cottage rented from her supportive couple -Bill (Brian Cox –‘Churchill’) and Gail (Blythe Danner –‘Little Fockers’).

Before too long Philip’s dad Richard (Greg Kinnear –‘Little Men’) gets involved (having earlier left Charlene for another woman) to join both his son and former wife in learning the truth behind Melissa’s inexplicable pregnancy.

As the suspense builds, a strange twist of tragic events ensues in the relationship between Bill and Gail enveloping Philip and later his parents, just as Melissa requires to be rushed to hospital for the birth of her child.

Considering this is just his second feature film, Athale has fashioned an entertaining thriller adapted from John Searle’s novel of the same name, incorporating an intriguing storyline, complete with some twists and turns, which further increases the filmgoer’s enjoyment.

Athale has to his credit assembled a stellar cast that includes pleasing performances from Ryan, Kinnear and Danner, in particular Cox, not to mention Robinson – a rising star in one of his most prolific portrayals to date.

It is also interesting to note that the concluding scenes at the hospital appear to show the family acknowledging the father of Melissa’s child, putting to rest any doubt that there is anything strange but true about the conception

Vic’s Verdict: 3 ½ Stars

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