This film is a tough watch, but it is worthy. One should not watch this nor should they avoid it simply because of who produced it.
Director D.J. Caruso
Writer Melanie Toast
Starring Rainey Qualley, Jake Horowitz, Luciana VanDette, Vincent Gallo, Penelope Martone
Shut In is a film that came out of the development hell created by Covid. The original owners of the Melanie Toast’s script balked, Daily Wire “pounced” in and bought up the script. Eager to continue their journey into the world of entertainment, they brought in director Caruso (I Am Number Four), long lost actor Gallo and a group of younger actors including Qualley, sister of Margaret and daughter of Andie MacDowell. The choices of Qualley, VanDette pay off, largely. Gallo can play a convincing sleaze. The film only suffers with Horowitz wobbly portrayal as an estranged addict father.
Qualley is Jessica, the mother of a young Lainey (VanDette) and even younger boy. She is desolate, living in the house of her deceased grandmother. She finds no hope in the broken down home and is on her way to take them to another state. After a series of events, she finds her self shut inside an old pantry with her children waiting outside, cold, hungry and vulnerable. Then danger walks through the door in the form of the father’s child molester and fellow addict Sammy (Gallo). The set up is complex and slightly convoluted, but the players play it so straight one can almost look past the coincidences. Almost.
Caruso’s lens lingers with confidence on the lived in and worn out residence. We really get the feeling the house has nothing left to give someone who needs a fresh start. His camera finds ways to make points rewarding without being extremely obvious. The choices made by Jessica alternate between brilliant and oddly calm given her situation. That her character is created by a woman lends credence to the intellect she approaches when dealing with Lainey at her child’s level.
The story’s violence is original in some ways, puzzling in others. The first major violent act by Jessica is as shocking as it is clever. Who will suffer and why is never really in question. In the end what we have is one recovering addict dealing with two people who always seem to be high. She has the advantage and she uses it.
Jessica not the perfect heroine, though. She has more than one moment where her fortitude is truly tested. She has a long road to go, and she knows her children deserve a better parent than they’ve had. Giving her flaws makes her intelligence seem more of a miracle, but it also provides the grist for the viewer. If she doesn’t save herself, what hope do the kids have?
Shut In is a solid film worth a watch. It’s not going to win any awards, but it is also not nearly as bad as political opponents want to believe. It’s not overly or really even slightly preachy. There is a Bible. There is a cross. What Jessica finds in them is as much convential family wisdom and sentiment as anything.
This film is a tough watch, but it is worthy. One should not watch this nor should they avoid it simply because of who produced it. The values are solid, even if the film is only above average, it is still better than much of what is available to watch this month. One should not let the wind of politics keep you from taking advantage of the power of an original female voice.
(***1/2 out of *****)