During my trip to NYC, I was able to cross Tribeca off my festival bucket list. Knowing that I'd be driving back to the T dot the next morning, I wasn't keen on attending a midnight show, so I set my sights on an earlier screening, the intriguing thriller Emelie. It was a world premiere from a first-time director, but this screencap below – pretty much the only promotional item that exists for the movie at this point – certainly got my attention.
|Thomas Bair & Sarah Bolger in Emelie.|
When their regular babysitter is unavailable, the Thompsons find a last minute replacement named Anna (Sarah Bolger) to look after their three kids while they celebrate their anniversary. No sooner have the Thompsons pulled out of the driveway does it become clear that Anna is no ordinary babysitter.
I'm not really sure what it is about babysitters, but they've always intrigued me. Even now that I've grown up and contributed my own spin on the tale, I still crave more. Maybe my fascination is rooted in the fact I never really got the full experience as a kid. With my brother being seven years my senior, I have only faint memories of the neighbourhood girl named Dorothy who looked after us when our parents needed a break. I can also assume the allure was nurtured by my early love of horror films, of which we all know the babysitter is a beloved trope. A young girl, not only alone and vulnerable, but also tied to the children she sworn (or at least paid) to protect, so she can't exactly bolt at the first sign of trouble. But, what if the babysitter and trouble were one in the same? That is the delicious premise that Emelie puts forth.
I liked this movie, mainly for its performances. Bolger gives a layered portrayal as the unstable title character. She is cool, calculating and unpredictable, which builds some palpable tension in the first half. I have to also heap some praise on the three children, Joshua Rush, Carly Adams and Thomas Bair. All had some difficult subject matter to work through, and considering two of the three original child actors pulled out fourty-eight hours before the shoot, that they got any usable footage at all, is an absolute marvel to me. It wasn't just the performances though, as the characters were well realized, even the ones that didn't necessarily need to be. The parents in these stories are basically there to grab their coats and leave, but here they were rounded and felt like actual people.
There were a few times where Emelie's motivations seemed a little muddied, but it's possible some of these issues would be smoothed over with another viewing. It also helped that the movie ended on a strong note with a satisfying confrontation between Emelie and her eldest charge. Also, at a brisk eighty minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome.
Director Michael Thelin was on hand for the Q&A and nicely handled the not-so-bright lady sitting to my left when she asked why he decided to set the film in the nineties because there was a VCR and an old phone in it. She obviously neglected to notice the kids playing with iPads and current-gen handhelds the entire fucking movie. His response was pretty priceless,
“You even been to Buffalo?” (where the movie was shot)
|Director Michael Thelin|
I had to stifle a laugh when she let out an “Oh wow” when he told her it was actually set in the present.
Thelin is a local boy and the film doesn't currently have distribution, so who knows where Emelie will go from here. That said, I'm glad I saw it, as it's a decent character-driven piece with some genuinely uncomfortable moments. And it was nice to see the babysitter finally have a little fun for once.