(Ed- A solitary train ride to Montreal allowed me some time to write up the following review.)
I have spoken of Belgian filmmaker Axelle Carolyn several times here, but I'm ashamed to admit I somehow missed that her long-gestating feature debut Soulmate (a name settled on after many changes over the years) was released last year. It was only when I saw that her new anthology project Tales of Halloween was playing Fantasia that I had the “I wonder whatever happened to” moment. Thankfully, with the help of Momma Amazon, the DVD was soon whirring away in my machine.
A grieving widow named Audrey (Anna Walton) seeks solace in a remote cottage in Wales, but soon wonders if she might not be the only one living there.
It was a long road for this movie, as I began posting about its progress in 2010. Carolyn triumphed over budget restrictions, as well as cast and crew dropouts to deliver a spirited debut. I was a big fan of her 2011 short film The Last Post and am glad to see that the emotional sincerity present in her work gracefully transferred into her inaugural feature effort. Soulmate is a character-driven mood piece that has the pacing of such, but my patience was rewarded once the supernatural element finally revealed itself.
Carolyn is well versed in modern horror (having written the 2009 tome It Lives Again!), but her influences are clearly of a much older era. In an interview, she admitted that while writing Soulmate, she was unconsciously guided by the 1947 film The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. It's also not hard to find shades of many other ghost stories from the middle of the twentieth century here, as well. The impressive thing is how competently she brought those elements into the present day.
|Anna Walton as Audrey in Soulmate.|
Of course, I can't give her all the credit. As Audrey, Anna Walton (for whom the role was apparently written) carries the weight of this tale on her shoulders. Roles where one is expected to make grief a tangible thing are extremely difficult and Walton performs admirably. She was also helped by the perfectly cast Tanya Meyers & Nick Brimble who appear as overly helpful townsfolk. Soulmate was then further strengthened by the beautiful Welsh countryside and the string-driven score by Christian Henson.
Soulmate may not appeal to everyone for there are none of the bells and whistles often demanded of genre pictures these days (some might even barely consider this a horror film), but for the subset that dig on British supernatural fare of a more subtle nature, this is a gem.