Elyse (2020)

Director: Stella Hopkins

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Lisa Pepper, Anthony Hopkins, Aaron Tucker, Tara Arroyave, Fran Tucker, Anthony Apel, Julieta Ortiz, Danny Jacobs

Opening on a monochrome scene with key items coloured in red, the titular character is introduced descending the stairs. On the surface, Elyse (Lisa Pepper) seems to have it all: a beautiful family, a stunning home, and a charmed lifestyle, yet all seems lost. What has made Elyse's world seem so colourless? Her day unfolds before viewers, as she wanders around town in a daze, only snapping out of it upon seeing her son. Otherwise, she feels so alone from everybody, while being prone to mood swings and self-destructive outbursts.

There's a strain on her relationships, as the tense relationship with her mother is full of snide remarks, while unresolved issues simmer beneath. Elyse feels at a distance from her husband, lashing out in jealousy whenever he's near Carmen (Tara Arroyave), his colleague who is also the housekeeper's daughter. Aware of the problems she's causing, Elyse decides to see a doctor she can open up to (Anthony Hopkins).

The ingredients are there for an introspective tale, where a person's greatest enemy lies within their own mind, as hallucinations and reality blur together. Sadly, such ambitions feel out of reach from director and co-writer Stella Hopkins. There's a distinct lack of focus in her screenplay, co-written with Audrey Arkins, too scattershot to be effective. The ensuing story feels a bit too stagy, as lines and monologues take one out of the scenes, despite how committed a performance may be.

As the story continues on, it takes a turn which seems ill-fitting, feeling played for the sake of including a twist. This choice should inform what came before, allowing viewers to see the proceedings in a new light, yet is an odd choice resulting in an abrupt change. Whatever ambitions the story had are lost, opting for a route calculated towards misguided awards recognition. A charitable reading is that this is a look at grief, and how jealousy tears families apart, although the material feels too hollow to resonate.

Elyse is available on all digital platforms from May 31st