THE STORY – Meg (Jennifer Kim) is trying to readjust to normal life after recently being involved in a heinous abduction. To recenter herself, she takes a trip to the woods by the coast in Cape Cod with her husband Scott (Kentucker Audley) to stay at his wealthy family’s countryside compound. An excursion like this offers the kind of peace that Meg deserves to regain her sense of normalcy — but those plans get swiftly disrupted when Scott’s upper-class cousin Madeline (Marin Ireland) arrives unannounced. Madeline’s insertion into their activities causes Meg’s recent traumatic memories to resurface through eerie hallucinations and nightmares. While Scott tries to attend to the emotionally fraught Meg, she begins to clash with Madeline’s aristocratic personality. The conflict brings out passive-aggressive behavior that makes Meg question her sanity while also coming to terms with the truth behind her kidnapping.
THE CAST – Jennifer Kim, Kentucker Audley, Marin Ireland & Micheál Neeson
THE TEAM – Olivia West Lloyd (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 98 Minutes
“Somewhere Quiet” has the most memorable title card of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival: Jennifer Kim lets out her best Scream Queen screams with the title overlaid. A perfect juxtaposition as the film turns out to be the opposite of what its title would suggest. Her character, Meg, has every right to let it all out. After being held for six months by kidnappers, she’s finally free and trying to get back to her old life. However, her new normal will turn out to be just as traumatic.
It’s almost Christmas, and Meg and her husband, Scott (Kentucker Audley), make their escape from the city to his old woodland family home. The seclusion should mean peace and quiet for her to try to heal, but it’s loud in its claustrophobia. Setting their vacation destination at a creaky old house, like the one she was held in for all those months, probably wasn’t the best idea. It’s immediately obvious that something is off as she sees people staring back at her from the woods. Meg begins to hear noises, too, like the sound of a woman struggling to get out of a locked closet. She also thinks she sees Scott sleepwalking, which is startling because he never does. The audience, like Meg, is unsure of what’s real and what isn’t. What seems like hallucinations only escalate with the arrival of Madeline (Marin Ireland), Scott’s cousin.
Ireland knows how to perfectly evoke a sinister motivation lurking under a charming smile, and that’s precisely what we get here. Immediately, like Meg, we are suspicious of her. She sets her eyes on Meg with a motive, and distrust builds to create tension that’s both uncomfortable and verging on explosive. There’s something going on between Madeline and Scott, like they’re in on a secret they refuse to share. Confronting Scott with questions and suspicions only makes things worse for Meg and leads to more questions than answers about whether she really is a hallucination or if this is a perplexing case of gaslighting.
“I feel fucking crazy,” Meg says, and writer-director Olivia West Lloyd succeeds in getting her audience in that same headspace. Ariel Marx’s score is typical for a thriller with its erratic strings, but playing it over the most mundane scenes indicates nothing is what it seems. Many sounds are emphasized, setting the audience on edge. Every time Meghan jumps, we’re taken off guard. The film can somehow deliver an intense feeling of distress and anxiety while also being very muted. This has a lot to do with the stillness that Kim carries in her grounded performance. She manages to look so tired, like her soul has been sucked right out of her. She also gets a fantastic final girl moment where the realization of everything that just happened comes crashing down, and the last thing we see is her face in the midst of trying to process it all.
“Somewhere Quiet” is a psychological trip that plays with the audience’s mind as much as it does Meg’s. The biggest question concerns what happened to her while she was kidnapped. She does speak a bit about the experience, but it’s mostly left to the imagination. At first, it seems like what Meg is experiencing during this holiday getaway is a manifestation of her trauma. It’s as though what she is seeing are puzzle pieces that will eventually create a full picture.
But the film likes to make the audience think one thing and then completely twist it. It will work for some and not others, as it’s frustrating not to receive conclusive answers. It does relish in being devilishly twisted, though, and as a debut feature, Lloyd surprises in how she plays with the final girl formula in a way that feels original and different from the usual slasher.