Today wasn’t the first time I tried to watch The Blackcoat’s Daughter. I gave it a go a few years ago and fell asleep thirty minutes in. I didn’t finish it. Second times the charm, right? Let’s just say the Sandman was lurking over my shoulder. It’s not that the The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a bad movie but it is an endurance test. The film is a slow burn, shown out of sequence, clouded with an ambiguity that finishes with an abrupt ending and no easy answers. Only answers that the viewer must decipher. I’ve read two or three blog posts that decipher the film which does give me respect for how the pieces fit. That being said I never would have been able to put them together on my own.
The film is about a pair of girls left behind at a Catholic boarding school during winter break… Or mid-winter break (even that’s a mystery). There’s Rose (Lucy Boynton), a moody teen who’s fearful she might be pregnant and Kat (Kieran Shipka), a quiet and socially awkward girl who feels like she’s being stalked by a ghost. We also have a subplot involving a young woman who’s escaped from a mental asylum named Joan (Emma Roberts) traveling with a pair of deeply religious adults (James Remar and Lauren Holly) to the Catholic school.
As the story unfolds, Kat believes her parents haven’t come to pick her up for break because they died in a car crash. Therefore she’s being haunted by their ghosts. Though it could also be the devil. Whatever it is she descends further and further into the deep end, with Rose becoming her target. Think of it like The Shining if it was set in a Catholic school. Except less happens and with more ambiguity than even Kubrick’s classic head-scratcher.
If the film doesn’t sound confusing keep in mind I’m relying on multiple sources to piece this together. The film moves at a disjoined pace, jumping around to different events and times throughout the story. It works on occasion thanks to the great cinematography and acting from all three talented leading ladies. I also love that the events take place during the wintertime with an eerie yet beautiful canvas of snow covering all the film’s exteriors.
The problem is the film feels like it’s being ambiguous because if it wasn’t it would be hollow. There’s not enough of a seedling here to grow into a great idea. The film seems so content on its twists and turns that it loses the viewer time and time again. That being said I do see a lot of promise in Oz Perkins as a director. He has a great sense of camera placement and gets genuine performances from his cast. Coming up he has the film Gretel and Hansel in January and from the trailers alone I can tell that’s going to be a beautiful film.
The Blackout’s Daughter is a beautiful film. It’s just kind of boring and kind of confusing. But if you pride yourself on being challenged on an intellectual and artistic level this might be the film for you.
P.S. Catholics are crazy!
Fun Fact: Not only is Osgood “Oz” Perkins the son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, he’s also a former actor. You might remember him as David Kidney, the awkward nerd guy from Legally Blonde.