Grace, a young widow haunted by the recent suicide of her husband Joseph, is falsely accused of being a witch by her Landlord after she rejects his advances.Grace, a young widow haunted by the recent suicide of her husband Joseph, is falsely accused of being a witch by her Landlord after she rejects his advances.Grace, a young widow haunted by the recent suicide of her husband Joseph, is falsely accused of being a witch by her Landlord after she rejects his advances.
"Clumsy" is the first word that comes to mind when describing Neil Marshall's disappointingly unambitious Dark Age drama. In recent years we've been spoiled, perhaps, with well-executed female-led period revenge tales; Jennifer Kent's spellbinding The Nightingale was one of the best films of last year, and Mirrah Foulkes' devilish Judy & Punch quickly became a highlight of 2020. It's hard, then, not to compare The Reckoning to other films in recent memory with such superficial similarities, especially when it pales so thoroughly in comparison.
Grace (Charlotte Kirk) kicks us off by laying to rest her husband who has hanged himself on a tree outside their cottage. We learn, through parallel flashbacks, that he contracted "The Sickness" and took his own life to protect his family from the contagion. This sets off a chain of events that leads to Grace being accused of witchcraft by the town's petulant sheriff (Steven Waddington), who calls in a witch hunter to prosecute her (Sean Pertwee, spending the film twirling not only his own mustache but even the mustaches of those around him). What follows is a series of torture scenes, each more uncomfortably unrestrained than the last, interspersed with Grace's increasingly disturbing nightmares. These dream sequences should be the core of the film, as Grace's visions get more introspective and erotic, imagining her husband's embrace shifting into carnal acts with the devil himself. Instead, just like the torture, they never get more interesting even as they grow more graphic.
Every turn the plot takes is a predictable one. Every character is as stock as they come. Kirk, leading the cast and co-writing the script, delivers a bland performance that rarely conveys the suffering Grace endures. Marshall's direction is just as uninspired, with an inconsistent tone and a wobbly handheld camera that sticks to flat planes and textbook compositions. The production design lacks authenticity and the effects, while bloody, carry neither grit nor weight. Supporting performances are almost universally awful, given no help by the broad, clunky dialogue or their paint-by-numbers characterizations. Even Christopher Drake's sweeping score is overshadowed by the Hans Zimmer soundtracks it so clearly tries to evoke.
By the end of The Reckoning, once it's become clear that there's no deeper meaning to explore, no surprising twist to alleviate the gloom and nothing left to do but wait out the runtime, Grace's final revenge feels like less of a resolution and more of a liberation - as she stumbles, victorious, through a marsh, drenched in blood and dragging a broadsword behind her, the audience is equally free to go rewatch Judy & Punch instead.
- Aug 22, 2020