H & G
Danishka Esterhazy is a director based in Manitoba, Canada who has specialised in these fairytale deconstructions. She has previously made modernised versions of fairytales in the short films The Snow Queen (2005) and The Red Hood (2009), and the full-length Suddenly Ever After (2010), which created analogues for fairytale characters set in a modern high school. Esterhazy made her full-length directorial debut with Black Field (2009) and H & G is her fourth feature film.
I wanted to like H & G but began to switch off soon into it. In the early scenes, Esterhazy wants to give us a portrait of two children living in poverty with a negligent mother. However, it becomes a depiction of poverty directed, costumed and set dressed by people you feel have never even travelled into a low-income neighbourhood in their lives and is something that sets a tone of maddening banality for the film to come. Throughout, Esterhazys directorial set-ups seem frustratingly mannered. Case in point being when the kids discover something inside Tony Porteouss deep freezer near the end she only shows their reaction, not what is inside and we are left with the idea that it is a body but that the film is being too polite to ever show us what it is. Even scenes where Esterhazy gives the impression that she has discovered a poetry the ones with the kids wandering about the farm and breaking bottles seem drowned out by an overly insistent piano score that all but sits there and tells us poetic interlude coming up.
H & G just didnt work for me in any way no matter how much I wanted it to. What we have is essentially a copy of Francois Ozons Criminal Lovers albeit with the ages of the kids in their pre-teens rather than teenagers and that film did everything you have here far better. The two kids both of which it should be pointed out are being played by girls are amateurish. Their nervousness and lack of assurance in front of the camera shows through on screen. The scene at the end where Annika Elyse Irving struggles to tell Tony Porteous Youre a monster and keeps stumbling over pronouncing the words seems such an embarrassment that you wonder why Esterhazy didnt bother to reshoot the scene. It is also a film that is overlit by a cinematographer and lighting cameraman who you get the impression felt they had to illuminate every single thing in the frame and leave nothing to suggestion this is a film that would have gained an enormous amount more impact by simply reducing the lighting level of scenes by fifty percent.
H & G feels like a film that wants to go into dark places it is pitched to adults as witness the use of four-letter language throughout so you wonder why it ends up being so tepid. Tony Porteous is called a monster but at the end he never does anything more than shout at the kids and seems to want to keep them at the farm, at most preventing Breazy Diduck-Wilson from calling her mother on a couple of occasions. It is hinted that he has more sinister intentions whatever it is in the freezer, the contents of which we are not privy to, and the scene where Diduck-Wilson finds a scrap album with pictures taken from ads of young men posing from which we are presumably meant to put together with the attentions that Porteous gives to Harley to make the association that he has paedophile intentions. In that Esterhazy leaves so much to implication then abruptly turns around and calls it horrific, it feels like a film that is afraid of getting too dark it wants to suggest but is so delicate about every coming out and directly saying anything.
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)