23rd Sep2019

‘Strange But True’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, Amy Ryan, Brian Cox, Greg Kinnear, Blythe Danner, Mena Massoud | Written by Eric Garcia | Directed by Rowan Athale


Strange But True is directed by Rowan Athale (The Rise) and penned by Eric Garcia (Matchstick Men), based on a novel by John Searles. It’s a dark thriller about a woman who shows up at the home of her deceased boyfriends family and tells them she is pregnant with his child. Trouble is, he’s been dead for five years. It’s a obscure and intriguing concept and with a cast that includes Amy Ryan (The Office), Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), Brian Cox (Adaptation), Nick Robinson (Love Simon), and Margaret Qualley (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), I was on board. A nice assembled group of actors and a curious plot is easy to be on board with, after all.

We follow Philip (Robinson) who has a distant and cold relationship with his mother, Charlene (Ryan). The death of Philips brother, Ronnie, is a major cause of the distance and anger existing in the house. We then see Melissa (Qualley) turn up out of the blue, knock on the door, and tell the family that she’s expecting Ronnie’s baby. Obviously the family of Ronnie aren’t exactly “Oh, we believe you” about the revelation, but Philip tries to get to know her and figure out what’s going on. It’s a mystery story amidst a plot that nudges at perhaps more going on, and we see Philips father, Richard (Kinnear), whom he has a disconnected relationship with to say the least and others join the case to find out just what the hell is going on.

It’s an unusual and wild premise and one I was really quite interested in. The cast are a tried and tested bunch, all having done so many excellent things before this, but it’s Margaret Qualley who shines the most as Melissa. She brings a real believability to her role, a quality that drives the story forward and keeps the other characters, and us, in a place of bewilderment. I thought everyone was excellent though, and it isn’t surprising given the talent on hand. Robinson does a good job in taking much of the plot on his shoulders and pulling the wagon forward. It isn’t always flawless and there are perhaps times when the characters themselves could have done with having more about them, more to say, but I was still very happy with that aspect of Strange But True.

The story itself is a little less polished and clear. I felt like the film flickered about a lot, unsure perhaps of what exactly it wanted to be. The tone changed too much and it was jarring to experience. It felt like the whole plot was based around shocking people with the final act, and I think the film did suffer due to that. The hop-and-jump from being one thing into being something completely different didn’t work for me.

I thought the whole thing looked pretty damn great, and the cinematography from Stuart Bentley (Black Mirror) was assured and slick. I can’t fault it. I did enjoy the overall mysterious edge to it, too, and the twists and turns were genuinely surprising when they popped up. Sadly, I don’t think they all worked like was intended. A fantastic cast with a wonderful performance from Qualley, the film falters when it comes to its confused and jumbled plot and haphazard tone. The story, and the way we care about it, falls at the feet of Melissa’s pregnancy and the mystery surrounding it. I enjoyed a fair amount of the film, but struggled with a fair amount of it too. It’s a curiosity, that’s for sure.

**½  2.5/5

Strange But True is out on Digital Download on September 27th from Vertigo Releasing.


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