Masters Of Cinema #154 - Queen Of Earth - Blu-ray Review

'Moss and Waterston are superb from start to finish, offering a masterclass in saying one thing and suggesting another'.

A dramatic two-hander at its core, director Alex Ross Perry successfully builds Queen Of Earth into a psychological horror film about depression. Some might argue against the film being placed in this genre, but the continually tense atmosphere generated by the inventive camerawork of Perry and cinematographer Sean Price Williams coupled with Keegan DeWitt's oppressive score are clearly influenced by horror offerings of the 1970s. The director occasionally allows his own affectations get in the way of his clear skill as a filmmaker - the title cards telling us when the story has moved from one day to the next feel pretentiously like Wes Anderson meets The Shining - but these quirks are thankfully reined in for the most part. 

After setting up the scenario that leads to Catherine (Elizabeth Moss) moving in with her friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston), Perry allows his film to progress in a largely plotless fashion. The director instead turns his focus almost entirely onto the relationship between the two women, which can best be described as enigmatically fraught. Catherine refers to Virginia as her "best friend" on more than one occasion, but it's clear from the tension between the two characters very early on that this is a friendship that has become increasingly strained, something which worsens as the film progresses.

Aside from a handful of flashbacks to a year earlier, Perry gives us little concrete evidence as to how the deterioration between the two characters has happened, instead handing matters over to his two leads. In doing so, the director strikes gold. Moss and Waterston are superb from start to finish, offering a masterclass in saying one thing and suggesting another. The script is consistently authentic and finely crafted, but the delivery by the two actors is what brings Queen Of Earth to life in excruciating, captivating fashion. Moss in particular delivers some of the film's most memorable scenes, including a damning and vitriolic attack on Rich (Patrick Fugit), Virginia's neighbour and casual boyfriend.

In terms of its presentation of depression, Queen Of Earth must also be considered a success. In a conversation with Virginia early on, Catherine mentions that she always saw her father's depression as a problem to be dealt with rather than a disease. It's an observation which serves to foreshadow her own descent into depression and mental instability throughout the film as Virginia struggles to either support or tolerate her friend's increasingly erratic behaviour. The only flaw in the way Perry presents this aspect of the women's relationship is when the frostiness between the two simply becomes too overbearing. Whilst both Catherine and Virginia come across sympathetically at times, occasionally it becomes very hard to root for either of them, making Queen Of Earth a punishing watch for too little reward here and there.

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Queen Of Earth is released in the UK on Monday 11th July 2016

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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