Tilda Swinton is undeniable, one of the greatest performers of our time. The only person she’s in competition with is herself, a challenge Joanna Hogg is more than willing to approach with her latest film. The Eternal Daughter is essentially a two-hander between Tilda Swinton and Tilda Swinton, handling both roles so wonderfully that you will forget these women are the same person. People joke about Tilda Swinton’s alien tendencies, her ethereal majesty – these are true descriptors, but as she has proven with The Souvenir and its sequel, Swinton’s finest performances come when she acts as mortal as the rest of us. The Eternal Daughter is no different, a restless ghost story shot in secret last year that asks a mother and daughter to reckon with how they understand each other. There is also a crash zoom on a dog’s startled reaction.
Filmmaker Julie Hart (Tilda Swinton) has booked a trip with her mother Rosalind (Tilda Swinton) and dog Louis (himself), hoping to celebrate Rosalind’s birthday. The hotel was once their family home, a gothic manor that seems empty except for the ghosts of the past. Though Julie hopes to connect with her mother in this special place, she isn’t quite ready for what Rosalind remembers of her experiences. Tensions rise, conversations are overheard, and all secrets are revealed. Plus, Julie has to deal with a kind-of-rude receptionist (Carly-Sophie Davies) with extremely loud shoes, an unexpected bit of hilarity for Hogg.
The Eternal Daughter exists to be pored over, and a single viewing is not enough for a fully fleshed out review. Already it is starting to grow in my mind like the ivy that covers an old building, and I hope to see it in a theater soon. Swinton’s dual performances are cinematic magic at its finest, but Joseph Mydell’s role as the hotel caretaker shouldn’t be ignored either. There’s a gentleness to this film that never undercuts the devastating dinner conversations between mother and daughter. It must be experienced to be believed. It’s not quite the third film in the Souvenir series, but… it’s not not that. Much like Rosalind, the film is an enigma worth celebrating.
The Eternal Daughter
dir. Joanna Hogg
Available on in theaters (nowhere local, sadly) and on demand Friday 12/2