In 2008 Pascal Laugier rose from obscurity to being firmly in the public eye, widely loved and hated the director shot the movie Martyrs. Many thought that Martyrs was both an empowerment, and a bastardisation of womanhood. Laugier himself tells amusingly of the abuse he personally has received over his movie. Now a long time in the wilderness, Laugier’s next feature (written prior to Martyrs) The Tall Man is making its way to cinemas.
Julia (Jessica Biel – Or should we say Jessica Timberlake) runs a free clinic in a small rural town, a nurse living in the wake of her late husband’s shadow, Julia is out to prove herself in this close-knit community. But the town is very much a town in permanent mourning, for some years ago the children started going missing, the perpetrator a character regarded by most as a myth, The Tall Man. When Julia awakes one night she finds her son missing, and her live-in babysitter tied up and beaten. Julia gives chase to a shadowy figure that flees her home, and a new mystery begins.
At the movies very center there is a point where many writer/directors would be showing a reveal as part of a final act. This discovery completely challenges everything that the audience has been dealing with up until that point, and flips it 180 degrees screaming “there, you never expected that did you?” but in doing so, Laugier attempts the dangerous risk of putting his audience back in the very place they were at the start of the movie, a gamble that here becomes a visionary masterstroke.
As the movie moves into it’s final portion, Laugier pulls the rug again from under his audience, and they find themselves in a completely different genre to the one they settled down to in the first place, taking the story full circle, and into a completely different circle of events.
While many will be disappointed by Laugier’s shocking journey (when compared with his previous work), they is no doubt that he has achieved something as powerful as Martyrs, without going down the same tour-de-force he did last time.
Post screening Laugier took to the stage to tell the audience that the role of Julia very nearly could have gone to Jennifer Garner, had he not implored her to check out Martyrs. Thankfully the horror of Martyrs was obviously too much for Garner, but not for Biel, who makes the role one that no other actress could have delivered with such conviction. Biel not only felt and believed in the project, she invested and engaged in movie as a whole, making it a labour of love for not just it’s director, but its star too.