By JILLIAN KRISTINA
Starring Audrey Grace Marshall, Stacey Weckstein
Written by Laura Allen, Cory Choy
Directed by Cory Choy
Death looms over us all, young and old, healthy and sick. And just as death lies in wait, so do the specters of our past. What lies buried in the soil in the recesses of our darkest corners has a way of unearthing itself when we choose to leave it to rot. And it will rot, and in turn, so shall we.
Based on true events, the mesmerizing supernatural thriller, ESME, MY LOVE, explores the complicated, oftentimes harrowing relationships between mother and daughter, and how the poltergeists of our pasts can poison and twist the truth of our present.
When Hannah (Stacey Weckstein) begins noticing signs of a terminal family illness in her young daughter, Esme (Audrey Grace Marshall, The Flight Attendant), she decides to take her on a camping trip to see her family’s old abandoned farm. Hannah tells Esme about her sister, Emily; how much Esme looks like her, how even the compact mirror that Esme is playing with belonged to her.
“She said it let her see things for what they really were.”
Esme never knew Hannah had a sister until now. Esme also calls Hannah by her name, instead of calling her ‘Mom.’
“Mom. You call me Mom.”
As they progress through the woods, a low, eerie humming surrounds them, providing the auditory backdrop to the film’s slow-burn, staggering crescendo.
Hannah’s personality ebbs and flows, seemingly switching from slowly slipping dream state to a panicked urgency, then into an exuberant presence that’s almost as disturbing as the trepid ambiguity that begins to envelope the pair. “Did I ever tell you you come from a family of diggers?”
When they finally arrive at the family home, she invites Esme to dig in the dirt of the house’s basement. After unearthing artifacts from her childhood, Hannah begins to drift again, pulled between the past and the present – she embodies liminality, seemingly unable to escape it.
“It’s like my past is connecting with us – a tiny piece of something that doesn’t exist anymore. We’re not really alone. The past can speak to us. Change our minds, maybe even change our plans.”
What unfolds is a woman enraptured by the trauma and ghosts of her past, unable to escape a place in time that seems to have stolen vital pieces of her. A woman who is faced with a harrowing choice in the aftermath of unspeakable grief. A sort of fever dream takes hold as the two become even more isolated in the woods, both characters visited by their own hallucinations; one descending further into her own madness, while the other begins to discover the rotted, buried roots of her true origins.
Projections of ghosts, of trauma, of family secrets rearing up for revelation color and contort the already shifting nature of this story. There are more questions than answers, and maybe that’s for the best – the circumstances demand our attention, piquing both intellectual and emotional intelligence as it invites us to witness rather than dissect. The imagery, the complexity, the blurring lines between sanity and the slow descent into a splitting madness that ultimately breaks the toxic bonds of lies and illness and secrets buried so deep, there remains no choice but to excavate them. And they will be excavated, with new, fresh, unspeakable secrets birthed to take their place.
ESME, MY LOVE has been scheduled for a worldwide digital release on June 2, 2023.