“Esme, My Love” is a film that undeniably showcases some notable strengths but ultimately falls short in several critical areas, resulting in a cinematic experience that may leave many viewers feeling somewhat unsatisfied.
The film simply is about Hannah (played by Stacey Weckstein), a young mother, who decides to take her daughter, Esme (played by Audrey Grace Marshall), on a woodland camping adventure. Their destination? Hannah‘s childhood home, deep in the woods.
Sounds simple, right? But from the outset, something feels amiss, as if they are running from someone, or something paranormal.
At its core, the film is an indie thriller that takes a minimalist approach, focusing primarily on the dynamics between the two central characters Hannah and her daughter, Esme.
The film’s focus on just two characters, the mother and daughter, is a notable stylistic choice. It offers the opportunity to explore their complex relationship in depth. Stacey Weckstein and Audrey Grace Marshall deliver commendable performances, portraying the emotional complexities of their characters with depth and authenticity. The mother-daughter bond is a central theme of the film, and the actors successfully convey a range of emotions, from tenderness to terror. Their chemistry and performances are certainly the film’s most compelling attributes.
However, the film’s deliberate pacing and abundance of ambiguity contribute to a sense of bewilderment and a lingering feeling that the narrative could have been delivered more effectively. The pacing in this film is one of its noticeable aspects which makes it feel ponderous and uneventful. The narrative unfolds with measured restraint, with long, contemplative shots and sequences that may test the patience of some viewers.
While a slow burn can be a valuable narrative tool in building tension and intrigue, in this case, it risks veering into tedium for those seeking a more fast-paced or engaging thriller.
Also, the film’s narrative structure is marred by its excessive use of ambiguity. Throughout the story, there are random shots and clips of the woods, greenery, and hills, inserted sporadically into the film. These additions can be confusing and may leave the audience wondering about their significance. It feels as though these scenes are included to extend the film’s duration, turning what could have been a concise and impactful short film into a feature-length production.
This leads to a crucial critique of “Esme, My Love.” The film’s length does not seem justified by the substance of its story. Many viewers may find that the narrative could have been effectively condensed into a much shorter runtime, perhaps under 15 minutes, without losing its essential themes and messages. In its current form, the film risks losing the audience’s engagement as it stretches out its storytelling without delivering sufficient clarity or compelling developments.
One of the most perplexing aspects of the film is its handling of paranormal elements. While there are hints of unexplained phenomena, including Hannah‘s distressing visions and references to an elusive character named ‘Emily,‘ the film leaves these elements largely unresolved. Viewers may be left in the dark about the nature of these occurrences and their connection to the story being told. The ambiguity surrounding the supernatural aspects contributes to the film’s overall sense of bewilderment. Some moments make you think that the film is a horror, but disappointingly it doesn’t confidently go down that path.
Perhaps one of the most significant letdowns of “Esme, My Love” is its lack of a satisfactory climax. A compelling climax can often redeem a slow-paced or ambiguous narrative by providing a sense of resolution or revelation. In this case, the film’s conclusion may leave viewers wanting more. The lack of a definitive resolution or a clear explanation of the events that have unfolded throughout the story can leave a lingering sense of dissatisfaction.
“Esme, My Love” in the end is a film that showcases strong elements, including excellent performances from its two central actors and an intriguing exploration of the mother-daughter relationship. But beyond that there is nothing that makes you want to sit through this film over again.
I would score this film 5/10. While it’s clear that the film aspires to be a thought-provoking and enigmatic thriller, it falls short of delivering a narrative that justifies its extended runtime. This leaves “Esme, My Love” feeling like a missed opportunity to craft a more succinct and impactful cinematic experience.