A troubled girl becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor, who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother.
When new neighbor Linda (Jessica Biel) and her newborn baby Chloe move in next door to eighteen year-old Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario) and her father Dennis (Alfred Molina) and stepmom Janice (Frances O’Connor), the two families quickly become friends. When Janice informs Dennis and Emanuel that Linda is looking for a babysitter, Emanuel agrees to the job as the extra money would come in handy for her as she is trying to save for college. When she meets Linda for the first time, they hit it off but when Linda brings Emanuel to Chloe’s room and introduces them, Emanuel is stunned to see a lifelike baby doll in the crib. She quickly realizes however, that something is not quite right with Linda and she plays along, pretending that Chloe is real so as not to hurt her.
We find out that Emanuel’s mother died while giving birth to her and she longs for that mother/daughter relationship and because Linda bears a striking resemblance to her deceased mother, the two become very close. When Linda goes out on a date with one of Emanuel’s co-workers and returns home, she shows him her baby and he is taken aback when he sees that it is a doll. He tells Linda that the baby is not real and asks her where the actual child is and this episode snaps her out of her delusional fantasy and she then accuses Emanuel of hiding her real baby. After the police are called and Linda’s ex-husband is summoned, he sets the record straight and informs everyone that they lost their newborn baby girl and that she never fully recovered and used the doll as a way to escape the harsh reality of their loss.
Jessica Biel is an actress that I feel has not been given the opportunity to show her real potential. It has surfaced from time to time in movies like “Hitchcock” and “Powder Blue” but I feel that one day, she will give a performance that will quieten the haters and the naysayers. Here, she does a fine job but the movie belongs to Kaya Scodelario, who plays the titular character of Emanuel. In front of her family and friends, she wears a foolhardy disguise, that of a young woman in charge of her life who knows exactly what she wants but we the audience, get to see the real Emanuel, a young woman lost without that maternal relationship with her mother that most of us get to experience. Never is it more evident than when she makes her very first visit to her mother’s grave at the end of the movie and breaks down,
her undeniable guilt at the actualization that she is alive and her mother is dead, because of her.
Alfred Molina, Frances O’Connor and Aneurin Barnard balance out the rest of the cast and perform their roles with great assuredness. Director Francesca Gregorini does an admirable job creating characters who appear to be in control of their lives but are really unanchored, drifting through life until they discover each other. Highly recommended.
In stores March 25th
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