I appreciate all kinds of movies, and I don’t mind depictions of gore, sexual violence, or whatever as long as they accomplish something, i.e. make me feel what the filmmaker wants me to feel. I’m not sure what I was supposed to feel when, the middle of an otherwise beautifully shot opening sequence (a series of cuts between an unusually ambitious marital boning session and an unsupervised toddler about to jump out of his bedroom window), I was shown an ultra slo-mo high-definition shot of a penis entering a vagina. Such a shot 1) is distressingly unsexy and 2) takes you out of the movie completely. You start thinking, that’s obviously not Willem Dafoe’s actual penis. You start thinking, is that actor credited as “Disembodied Penis” on imdb.com? Should I check? I don’t really care whose penis that is. But now I’m wondering about that when I should be noting that this couple’s child is about to die because they were too busy fucking in the shower to make sure the baby monitor was turned on.
The movie’s other big wowie-zowie moment is at the end, when the grief-stricken mother elects to cut off her clitoris with the kitchen scissors. A shot of her face during the crucial moment would have been a lot more emotionally effective than a close-up shot of a prosthetic vulva with a tube of corn syrup attached. Again, it does nothing but take you out of the story. It’s particularly annoying because this movie isn’t billed as some sort of generic torture-porn romp where the point is to be grossed out, or grossed out by how turned on you are, or whatever. It’s supposed to be a movie that’s actually about something, and for the most part it is, but the narrative journey is ruined by the silly attempts to be shocking.
I also don’t get why, late in the film, it’s revealed that the mother was actually nuts long before her kid died, and spent her time in the woods making some weird misogynistic scrapbook. So then, at long last, it’s not a movie about how grief affects people and their relationships; it’s just Crazy Lady Goes Even Crazier Comma Occasionally Does It With Willem Dafoe. Which is, you know, still a pretty cool movie. It just could have been so much cooler.