Director William Brent Bell
Screenplay Nick Amadeus, Josh Braun
Starring Rupert Friend, Mamie Gummer, Madeline Brewer, Violet McGraw, Simon Quarterman, Brian Cox
All one really needs to know about Separation lay in Ebert’s Law of Economy of Characters, “that no movie introduces a character unnecessarily, so that the apparently superfluous character is the one to keep an eye on.” For all of the puppets and creepy looking beings that move about the Vahn’s brownstone at night, there is one character who shows up repeatedly and seems innocuous.
The Vahn family is breaking apart. Maggie Vahn (Gummer) works for her rich father and she wants to do a Kramer vs. Kramer like her real life mother Meryl Streep did. Before this happens, she is run down in the middle of a New York street. Now father Jeff (Friend) is left to care for their daughter Jenny whilst fighting off the attempt of his father in law (Cox, still a reliable supporting antagonist after all of these years).
Jeff, an artist, starts to experience nightmares, which start to feed his artistic talent at the notice of his new employer (Quarterman). His daughter (McGraw, from The Haunting of Hill House) is drawing similar photos. She has a new imaginary friend. She refers to her mother as still alive.
It’s kind of hard to find a particular character outside of young Jenny to care about in this film. Friend is a bland guy, just unemployed for good reason, who never did anything really wrong to his wife, outside of his selection of said wife. Gummer is just as frigid and inaccessible as Streep is in real life, and Cox is a wolf howling outside the door getting in the way of Friend’s nice guy routine with his daughter.
Bell, the director of the decent The Boy as well as it’s vapid followup, meanders between fear of the creepy crawlies and accepting them as helpful, then back again in time for the credits. There is nothing particularly compelling about this work, outside of the contortions one of the real life puppets does.
You can skip this and just assume you will know the real killer in the first 5 minutes.
(*1/2 out of *****)