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A BANQUET (2021, GBR) Movie review, plot, trailer, rating

Scotland debutant Ruth Paxton presented this stylized combination of psychological drama and horror at the Toronto Film Festival, an awkward minimalist story that deals with topics such as isolation, loss of close family members and the inevitable guilt, emptiness and sadness that comes with it. In the opening scene, we see Holly (Sienna Guillory) with a seriously ill husband who will take advantage of his wife’s moment of inattention and shorten his ordeal. The moment her father dies will be seen by high school graduate Betsy (Jessica Alexander) who will then be left alone with her mom and younger sister Isabelle (Ruby Stokes).

Both daughters seem completely unambitious, alienated, and the mother, for whom it is unclear what she is doing and what she survives on, is constantly cooking something, trying to please her daughters who are becoming more and more distant from her. At some point, Betsy will develop an eating disorder, but it will not be classic bulimia or anorexia, because despite not eating anything at all, Betsy will not lose weight. She is convinced that she is occupied by some quality and that she is preparing for some kind of transformation, which she is trying to convince her mother as well. She is convinced that Betsy is preparing for a cataclysm in the world and that her mother is a tool that can prevent that.

“A Banquet” was another in a series of these modern artsy – fartsy more psychodramas than horror, symbolist games in which form is more important than content. As my mother is constantly cooking some miracles as if she were the widow of Steve Karapandža, and not some random Briton, we also have frequent close-ups of food, faces, people’s mouths while eating. And until the very end, it is not clear to us whether this will turn into a body horror, perhaps a classic psychological drama about families whose member has serious eating problems or an exorcist horror. It seems to me that neither Paxton nor screenwriter Justin Bull have been able to decide what to do with this film because there will be just a little bit of it, and in fact nothing concrete. Rating 6/10.


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