19 June 2024
The Eternal Daughter by Joanna Hogg

Film Review – The Eternal Daughter (2022)

The Eternal Daughter by Joanna Hogg
Despite having been filmed during the pandemic, The Eternal Daughter is coming out for the general public only now. The film premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival last year and was also screened as part of other film festivals in the same season, such as Toronto and New York, and received critical acclaim. Needless to say, I was very much looking forward to seeing this film after having heard so much about it. And, of course, as a long-time fan of Tilda Swinton, I was also particularly excited to see her take on another iconic character in her impressive filmography.

Produced, written, and directed by Joanne Hogg, The Eternal Daughter focuses on the mother-daughter relationship between Julie (Tilda Swinton), a middle-aged filmmaker, and Rosalind (Tilda Swinton), her elderly mother as they spend some time together in a secluded hotel.  As the film goes on, Julie talks to her mother about the past and her sometimes painful memories tied to the location they are staying at in the hopes of making a film about her. As Rosalind relieves her past and shares it with her daughter, we also get an insight into their mother-and-daughter relationship at this time in their lives.

Much of the film relies on Tilda Swinton’s stellar performance in a double role, which elevates the whole film. I find Swinton to be particularly impressive in any role she takes on but she really shines in The Eternal Daughter. Both roles she embodies in the films are incredibly different, both in terms of aesthetic and acting performance, and equally nuances in every detail so much so that while watching the film I struggled to believe that she was actually playing both characters, despite seeing in right on the screen in front of me.

One of the strongest themes of the entire film, as evident from the title, is that of motherhood and the relationship between a mother and her daughter. While there have been a lot of different films that focus on this topic, especially by women directors, the exploration of family and this unique relationship between the two main characters stands out. During The Eternal Daughter, we hear Julie tell her mother that she is “trying all the time to make [her] happy” in one of the most heartbreaking moments of the film where Julie reflects on her relationship with her mother and on the fact that she is her entire family as Julie herself has no children to take care of or that will, in turn, take care of her.

When the fog lifts at the end of the film, an entire new version of reality is revealed to us but the story remains a little bit too unclear. While this is part of what makes The Eternal Daughter such an interesting film, I do wish the movie ended on a clearer note, without leaving so much unsaid, to tie up all the loose ends. At the same time, I have to commend Joanne Hogg for not shying away from keeping the ending of this film open to interpretation with a conclusion that leaves the audience pondering on this film for a while after having seen it, which is an accomplishment in itself.

The Eternal Daughter aesthetically creates the perfect feel for the film. The film visually creates the visuals of a Gothic movie from its very beginning, with its dark colours, as a lot of the key scenes of the film are set at night, and an ever-present mist that only lets the sunshine through at the very end. The music also aids the mysterious atmosphere that we perceive throughout the film but I could not help but feel like this was somewhat rushed and not fully explored as the film went on.

The Eternal Daughter is undoubtedly an interesting film that will surely leave its viewers reflecting on it long after the movie’s final frame with a misty and chilling atmosphere that sets the tone of the whole story. It is an incredible tour de force from the lead actress Tilda Swinton who stands out as the key performer in this film and reminds us once again of what a magnificent actress she is. Despite its beautiful aesthetic and fantastic acting, I am not sure everyone in the audience will appreciate it due to its somewhat obscure turns and ending.

★★★

Drama, History | UK, 2022 | 15 | 24th November 2023 (UK) | Cinema | BFI | Dir. Joanna Hogg | Tilda Swinton


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