Review: AMNESIAC, Michael Polish's Refreshing Take On A Hostage Thriller

Lead Critic; Brooklyn, New York (@floatingartist)
Review: AMNESIAC, Michael Polish's Refreshing Take On A Hostage Thriller
Twin filmmakers Michael and Mark Polish occupy a special spot in the American indie landscape. Since their strong debut Twin Falls Idaho, a weird little movie about conjoined twins, the brothers have been chugging along surviving in Hollywood, acting and directing series of independent films since the late 90s. They have a very distinctive visual style with a narrative steeped in magic realism while invoking the American West of yesteryears - men in dark suits and fedoras, expansive vistas, etc - my favorite film of theirs being Northfork.

Amnesiac, a small film not written by and not starring either Polish, is another unusual solo outing, after Big Sur, a Jack Keruac adaptation in 2013, by Michael Polish as a director. This stylish, slow burn psychological thriller stars Kate Bosworth as a deranged veterinarian who wants a perfect American family. Wes Bentley is her victim, a captive in her grand mansion, who has lost his memory after the car accident.

As our unwitting captive slowly gains consciousness, he explores the big house while limping. He doesn't get too far, though. Always caught in the midst of confusion as to where and who he is, he is led back to the bed again and again, being assured by his supposedly loving wife that his memories will come flooding back in time.

He vaguely remembers the accident and a flash of a young girl in the back seat of the car. His captor insists that they are a married couple. But slowly he finds out that she is a murderess and holding him bedridden for a reason.

There are the usual Polish touches everywhere, from anamorphic cinematography with the full use of light and space to 1950's style artifacts - Bosworth's old Hollywood ice queen, mouthing idiosyncratic trivial pursuit-style facts, big old convertibles, home movies on film, old phonographs, etc. Amnesiac dutifully follows the tried and true captive plot, a.k.a. Misery, but it is a lot less concerned about the plot details. Bentley's character endures much of his screen time tied to a bed, drugged and old-timey electro-shocked for misbehaving. And there are some thrilling moments as outside forces, namely, a mailman and a cop, snoop around after the disturbances caused by the captives. As the cat-and-mouse game plays out, physical space becomes tighter and tighter, finally getting confined to a basement for the climax.

Obviously the film is a Bosworth vehicle. After giving a wonderfully nuanced performance as Billie, a longtime mistress of Neal Cassidy who comes between him and Jack Keruac in Polish's Keruac adaptation of Big Sur, she changes gears here completely. Even though her character is short on exposition, she commands the screen with her icy demeanor. There is a slight backstory to her character but she doesn't really need our sympathy, because she is completely in charge of the situation - even when she gets stabbed with a pair of shearing scissors. It's quite a dark, demanding role and Bosworth wears it well, as she calmly takes care of business with an electronic hedge trimmer.

Amnesiac is a refreshing take on the psychological thriller. It's a relatively small project, but Polish and Bosworth make the most of it and make it shine.

XLrator Media will be releasing Amnesiac in theaters and on VOD and iTunes on August 14.

Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on the world can be found at
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Kate BosworthMichael PolishWes Bentley

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