The Eternal Daughter
Filmmaker Julie checks into a deserted hotel with her mother Rosalind (both characters played by Tilda Swinton). Long before it opened its doors for public lodging, Rosalind spent a significant amount of time at the manor, and Julie hopes that unlocking these memories will inspire her new film. But something is amiss: the receptionist tells them the specific room they requested is occupied and the property almost fully booked, yet there are no other guests in sight. At night, Julie is kept awake by strange sounds, their origin inexplicable in daylight.
Beloved arthouse director Joanna Hogg’s sixth feature premiered in Venice, where it competed for the Golden Lion, before screening in Toronto and London. The Eternal Daughter offers a slightly different take on the haunted house and ghost hunt tropes as it delves into the subject of remembrance. Despite it being a perfect herald of the autumnal film season, eeriness and mystery are only a small part of this feature, and viewers expecting a thriller or even horror may struggle with the gentle pace.
There is a distinct separation of mother and daughter in the framing of the images that works on multiple levels. Apart from the practical reasons for shooting without composites, the classic “shot/reverse shot” editing offers a direct comparison between the two women. Swinton triumphantly balances similarities and differences between the duo, even as her Rosalind remains an enigma, her age impossible to guess as her movements are not those of an elderly woman and her voice is indiscernible from Julie’s. There are lovely details in the script that paint in the characterisation, such as the strained politeness in the conversations between Julie and the hotel staff or any scenes involving Rosalind’s dog.
Both in terms of subject and style, The Eternal Daughter is very close to both parts of The Souvenir – in fact, the three films have been referred to as the “The Souvenir universe” by multiple critics. As warming and familiar as rediscovering an author’s signature can be, there is always an inherent danger of it becoming repetitive.
The Eternal Daughter is released in UK cinemas on 24th November 2023.
Watch the trailer for The Eternal Daughter here: