This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Kurdt’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Watched it again because it's the greatest thing ever. With this second viewing it may (whisper it) have usurped The Colour Wheel as my favourite Alex Ross Perry film, and considering how much I adore that film (you don't even know, man) that's a PRETTY BIG FUCKING DEAL.
It's just so atmospheric and downright scary. Now this is true horror to me. Fuck your Freddies and Jasons, the fact that someone could slip into a relentless depression like Catherine is terrifying. And perhaps even scarier is the reaction, or lack of, to it. It all comes about due to Virginia being pissed at the fact that Catherine's care of her on the previous trip was inadequate. She herself was going through some of her own issues, but Catherine was too busy hanging out with her boyfriend James. In the clips we see of the first trip, Virginia basically foreshadows her plan if you want to call it that. Talking about what would happen if the two of them traded places, you can see the seeds of revenge being meticulously planted a year in advance. And when Catherine's father dies and James leaves her, another summer trip to the cabin commences and this time Virginia is in control, and she's brought back everyone's favourite asshole Rich to turn the tables on Catherine. She snubs Catherine for the company of Rich, for petty games, for laughing behind her back. But something's different. Virginia stabs Catherine with insults, but Catherine just accepts them. Where's the arguments that commenced the year before? All of Perry's films have a brilliant grasp on the virulent nature of words, and while before Catherine was in a better place and would argue back, this time she's lackadaisical, she's inexorably tumbling down a dark hole and these petty games Virginia is playing are carving a dangerous spot in Catherine's mind.
Can you ever really know a person? What's truly deep down within them? Probably not but Rich is the perfect embodiment of that group of ultracrepidarian people that think they've got everyone figured out, that project their own fears onto others because their lives are just as convoluted and worrisome. The people that think depression is "a problem like work or money", something that can be sorted out easily, no fuss. Rich has only known Catherine for about two separate weeks in his life but he thinks he's got her figured out, he's coined her a rich spoiled brat and there's no changing that opinion. And as Virginia begins to realise the damage she's helped cause, and as Catherine sinks further into depression, Rich continues to poke at her, completely oblivious to the implications of his actions. And he gets no comeuppance, because that would be unrealistic. These people don't realise the damage they've caused and if they do, it's far too late. Patrick Fugit absolutely nails this role, he's got the perfect smug smirk. And something about a guy wearing v-necks connotes he's an asshole.
The film quietly pokes at themes of co-dependence, nepotism, male patriarchy, friendship, and human nature. Catherine has lead a life of co-dependence, whether it's relying on her famous father for a way of living or the way she gets so attached to James that they become a single entity ("we") that when they both leave her life, she breaks down. She's been cocooned by male figures in her life, by possible nepotism and due to her father's riches she probably grew up pretty comfortably, so she's a wreck when there's no one to guide her. Virginia should be the one to help her through this phase but she's too busy becoming co-dependent on Rich and playing her revenge game. What is true friendship? Is that another form of codependency that's important in life or is it better to just be left alone when friends act this shitty? Does Catherine need to be alone like she claims or is she in need of someone that genuinely cares about her? Human nature demands companionship but when there's so few decent people in the world, highlighted by the brilliant scene of Catherine verbally tearing down Rich, is it worth it? Ironically in that scene Catherine lovingly glances at Virginia when implying she's one of the few decent people left.
The final act and Catherine's unbearably raw final plunge into depression is heartbreaking. So brilliantly acted, suffocatingly filmed, ominously scored. There's still no understanding by the people around her, or even herself, as she sobs while crying out "I'll get better, I promise." Perry cuts back to the finale of the trip a year prior, where we see a radiant Catherine apologise to Virginia for not being as caring as she could have been, and Virginia's blank expression while her machiavellian mind works overtime while in the present, Virginia breaks down at Catherine's finished portrait of her, while Catherine cackles to herself, completely lost, totally gone.
And with that, this film is one of my all-time favourites.