The Return is one odd duck of a movie. It’s a thriller without any thrills; a suspenser with nothing suspenseful. It’s one of the most boring films I’ve come across all year and completely fails at the supernatural mystery it intends to be, yet it isn’t really a bad movie, just a thunderingly dull one.
Sarah Michelle Geller plays Joanna Mills, a traveling business lady with a troubled past — just what past is anybody’s guess, but we see her having troubling dreams and regressions concerning a car accident and a threatening figure. While on one of her business trips, Joanna visits her old hometown somewhere in the arid wastes of Texas. Further disturbing episodes lead her on a vague (and I mean vague) trail to the tiny hamlet of La Salle, where she is aided by a man who looks a lot like Charles Bronson. The rest of the movie unspools here as Joanna bumbles her way slowly toward the origins of her troubles.
The problem is, anyone in the theater who’s still awake won’t be particularly surprised or interested as The Return’s catharsis unfolds. The movie appears to be patently disinterested with itself and its characters — there’s no exposition to the story as it drags tepidly over its plotlines, punctuated with lazy scares, and there’s no rush to explain anything at all, leaving the audience not only uninterested, but bored to tears. Even the cinematography, which is admittedly quite attractive, seems to conspire against the viewer with a soporific barrage of plains, prairie, or grim landscapes. And there’s no real musical score to speak of through much of the film; it was a remarkable chore not to lean back and snooze, almost as if director Asif Kapadia asked Wim Wenders or Werner Herzog to shoot the intercalary scenes.
As a result, The Return is too slow to be frightening and much too sluggish to be a thriller. In a very, very roundabout way, it’s actually refreshing to see a so-called spook-story that doesn’t parade a bunch of cheap scares or shocking images in order to validate itself, but The Return isn’t just boring, it’s positively lulling. Not even the characters in the movie possess the kind of urgency that would make this snoozefest worth the payoff, and if they can’t be bothered, the viewer doesn’t have a chance.
Phillip Stephens is the lead critic for Pajiba. He lives in Fayetteville, AR.Buffy the Insomnia Slayer
Film | November 10, 2006 | Comments ()