The film takes place in the rural Devon countryside, where a family of four has just moved from London. Events are related from the perspective of 15 year-old Tom, who is unhappy with life away from the city.
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[Spoilers] Deeply disturbing portrait of child abuse in a family, which dares to show an abuser not as a monster but as for the most part a loving parent. The final scene, which implies the cyclical nature of abuse, is one of the most brutal ever endings in film. Belmont's performance especially is staggering.
Disturbing doesn't even cover it. Ranks among the most nausiating film experiences I've had. Not because it is bad - that not what I'm saying - merely that it really succeeds portraying something awful.... and afterwards you won't know what to do.
It's really hard for me to verbalize my feelings towards this film. A draining experience for sure. That's why Roth's direction is certainly admirable, he throws this subject at our face, makes us feel guilty, confused, even like accomplices. The acting here is beyond perfection, especially Miss Belmont, whose work I consider one of the best screen debuts of all time.
This one hurts. Ebert nailed it when he said, this not a movie "about incest as an issue, but about incest as a blow to the heart and the soul." Lots of favorable comparisons of Roth to Bergman after this came out, but what will forever stick to me most is the deep-seated unease this film provokes, as well it should.
If this film manages to help one person to come forward and end an abusive relationship then Roth will have achieved greatness. Difficult to watch, but well done by all. Tilda Swinton is excellent, as usual.
I still remember the shock of seeing this for the very first time at a very young age, its bleakness and sincerity along with powerful and touching performances make this an unforgettably powerful film. The pacing though is a little bit uneven.