Director: Paris Zarcilla
Writer: Paris Zarcilla
Cast: Max Eigenmann, Jaeden Paige Boadilla, Leanne Best, David Hayman
Producer: Chi Thai
Music: Jon Clarke
Cinematographer: Joel Honeywell
Editor: Christopher C.F. Chow
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 99mins
What’s the story: Undocumented Filipina immigrant Joy (Eigenmann) believes she has found the perfect job when hired as housekeeper at a large, remote mansion. Joy must keep her young daughter Grace (Boadilla) hidden from her boss Katherine (Best). Katherine is caring for her comatosed, dying uncle (Hayman). But when unearthed secrets threaten all what Joy has worked for, she must fight to keep what she holds dear.
What’s the verdict: Raging Grace may be social commentary horror, but those expecting Ken Loach realism will be surprised by writer-director Paris Zarcilla’s choices. Eschewing grim kitchen sink realism, Zarcilla opts for the neo-Gothic and a strong vein of dark humour. Plus farce and visual gags as Grace pranks her long-suffering mum and must evade Katherine’s eye. All accompanied by Jon Clarke’s playfully spiky score.
Impressively, the writer-director makes this work without cheapening the desperation of Joy’s predicament. Crucial to this are Max Eigenmann as Joy and Jaeden Paige Boadilla as Grace. Their natural chemistry and layered performances run the audience through an emotional gamut. Particularly when details are revealed about what the ironically named Joy has endured.
As these and other plot revelations emerge, Zarcilla expertly turns up the tension. Often through casual, but tacitly sharp turns of phrase from the haughty Katherine, Leanne Best by turns soppy-stern and imperious. No spoiler to say the comatose uncle awakens at some point, and David Hayman, an actor whose warm smile can turn subzero in an instant, delivers the film another perfect turn.
As every film studies student can tell you, houses in horror films often play allegory, and Raging Grace uses it deftly to make its state-of-the-nation point. Not for nothing do lines from Rudyard Kipling’s pro-colonialisation poem “White Man’s Burden” chapter the film. Memorable hallucination-nightmare sequences also illustrate Zarcilla’s central themes, and we wonder what he could do with other horror genres.
In some ways, Raging Grace is a misnomer of a title. Rather than thunder and fury, resentment here slowly bubbles into righteous anger, crystallised in a late-in-the-day speech from Joy. Come awards seasons, BAFTA will hopefully pay attention to Eigenmann’s work.
Zarcilla is currently developing Domestic, instalment two of his “Rage Trilogy.” Count us in when that is released. Until then look out for this gem.