REVIEW: ‘Things Heard & Seen’ Can’t be Saved by a Strong Performance

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Things HEard & Seen

Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert PulciniThings Heard & Seen is based on the novel “All Things Cease to Appear” by Elizabeth Brundage and was written for the screen by Shari Springer Berman. In this genre-bending film, an artist, Catherine, relocates to the Hudson Valley and begins to suspect that her marriage has sinister darkness, one that rivals her new home’s history. It stars Amanda Seyfried as our lead Catherine, James Norton as her husband George, and Ana Sophia Heger as their daughter Fanny.

Moving from Manhattan couple’s new life in Hudson Valley becomes a nightmare through a slow-burn series of events. With a hidden past, the home and what lies within it begins to push the two to their breaking points, exacerbating an already frayed marriage and highlighting the sins of George’s past. While Catherine tries to piece together the mystery of her home, she slowly realizes that her family is now a part of a cycle of violence that has repeated itself across generations in the home. Starting as a drama focused on familial dysfunction and infidelity, Things Heard & Seen slowly moves into thriller territory as George becomes confronted with the ramifications of his choices. But that’s not all; the film also brings in the supernatural, exploring seances, ghosts, and memories stuck in time.

For her part, Seyfried as Catherine delivers a great performance. Vulnerable and scared for most of the film, Catherine is repeatedly gaslighted by her husband as he shirks off her concerns about their marriage and the house itself. Seyfried is the strongest force in this film, carrying the bulk of the film’s emotion in her role. Because Catherine carries the bulk of the story, it makes it hard for the film to hold any weight when Seyfried isn’t on screen. The moments between George and his mistress feel forced and lull the film, and I found myself just waiting to see Seyfriend again.

The truth is, Catherine is the only character where an emotional connection is built with the audience. Because of this, the film feels uneven and lacking even in moments that should push the thriller. That said, because the story is built on Catherine, the bleak ending and the meanness of the violence are hard to watch.  There is no catharsis in Things Heard & Seen, making the slow journey hardly worth the anticipatory ride.

In fact, everything about the last act of the film is mean. It hurts to see the violence happen again, it hurts to watch and see that there is no escape from it, and while the film is a very overt look at how cycles of violence continue through generations, there is no solution. There is only pain. And yes, this can be done to great effect to highlight the way misogyny kills women throughout time and place, but that isn’t done in Things Heard & Seen. Instead, we’re just presented with it, and that bleakness does more to turn the film into a piece of trauma porn instead of a film exploring trauma and violence. Additionally, these dramatic moments have small flares of camp that don’t seem intentional, making everything uneven.

Overall, Seyfried is the best part of Things Heard & Seen, but even her gripping performance isn’t enough to make the film hit the mark. But while the film is uneven, it is interesting. In fact, the film had promise, and yet, it falters under the weight of a bleak story.

Things Heard & Seen is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.

Things Heard & Seen
  • 4/10
    Rating - 4/10
4/10

TL;DR

Overall, Seyfried is the best part of Things Heard & Seen, but even her gripping performance isn’t enough to make the film hit the mark. But while the film is uneven, it is interesting. In fact, the film had promise, and yet, it falters under the weight of a bleak story.