Alex Ross Perry has been hailed as one of American independent cinema’s most exciting auteurs, and hot on the heels of his brilliantly bleak comedy, Listen Up Philip, comes this searing homage to the psychological horrors of Roman Polanski.
Elisabeth Moss is Catherine, a woman who’s been devastated by her recent break-up. She heads to the lakeside getaway of her best friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston), but she’s not going to get the rest and recuperation she was hoping for. As Catherine inches further and further towards a nervous breakdown, we start to see just how toxic this friendship is.
Perry creates an atmosphere that is quiet and still, but unbearably tense. Every glance is loaded, every new arrival an unwelcome intruder, every minor irritant the potential spark that will explode this situation that just somehow keeps going on. As it progresses, the question of who we’re meant to be rooting for remains murky. Catherine is unquestionably in need of help, but perhaps Virginia has her reasons for not giving it.
Moss is stunning, and Perry gives her a great platform to demonstrate her talents, starting with an incredible opening sequence in which we watch her react (badly) to being told her relationship is over. Once at the cabin, Catherine seems to be wounded by every little thing, but there are glimpses of something terrifying that give the film a real chill. If Virginia keeps pushing, what is Catherine capable of?
Waterston is excellent as the second half of this poisonous duo, forcing us to question how much of her concern is a façade and how much she wants Catherine to fall apart. They poke at each other’s weaknesses, finding raw nerves like perceived nepotism and failed potential, and they don’t stop. The more time we spend with them, the more uncomfortable things get.
Queen Of Earth is an uneasy viewing experience in the best possible way. With two towering performances and a filmmaker masterfully tightening the screws, this is superb.
Queen Of Earth is in UK cinemas now and available to stream with bonus features on We Are Colony.