Movie review: Antebellum: A disturbing reality
By Nirupa Mohan Dore Ceylon Today Features
Antebellum, the 2020 horror driven mystery thriller film, with the tagline “If it chooses you, nothing can save you,” stars Janelle Monae as Veronica Henley, a popular author, who is suddenly trapped in a dangerous and horrifying reality. The story features a mystery that she must uncover before her life and the lives of those around her are taken.
The film also stars Gabourey Sidibe as Bridget, Jena Malone as Elizabeth, Eric Lange as Senator Blake Denton, Kiersey Clemons as Shoshanna Meadows, Jack Huston as Hugo Meadows, Lily Cowles as Sarah, Marque Richardson as Nick, Tongayi Chirisa as Professorand Robert Aramayo as Daniel, among a skilled cast.
The story centres on Veronica, who is referred to as Eden, a successful present day African-American woman author, who at the same time looks like she is trapped as a slave on a plantation, in what looks like a 19th century southern slave trade, somewhere in America. The story feels like it goes back and forth between her life as a modern-day author, and her life with horror and trauma at the plantation. The story takes time to become clear on what is happening, with brutal imagery that is hard to watch, as she and the others who are trapped as slaves are beaten, and some are killed.
The cinematography in the film manages to showcase the performance of the cast, while delivering creative production design, supported by well thought layouts, that worked with each scene and more importantly, the costume design brought it all together, to create a bold difference between modern day and what looks like the past.
The mind-bending storyline manages to push Eden to confront what looks like the past and present, to save herself before it is too late. The story with moderate pacing can be uncomfortable to watch, given that it involves violence and visits the horrors of American slavery. The film is rated R for disturbing violent content, language, and sexual references.
The 106-minute film by Christopher Renz and Gerard Bush, making their directorial debut, as they produced the movie together with producers Lezlie Wills, Sean McKittrick, Zev Forman and Raymond Mansfield, in collaboration with production companies Lionsgate and QC Entertainment, with a budget of 15 million dollars. The film which was initially scheduled to be released in April 2020, was postponed due to the global pandemic and only recently made its way to video on demand and cinemas in selected countries around the world, including Sri Lanka, managing to rake in just over 4.1 million, amid a struggling global film industry. The film with mixed reviews, was rated 28 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, 45 per cent on Metacritic and 5.5/10 on IMDb.
Promoted as a film by the producers of Us (2019), the story features a few plot twists as it goes through what initially looks like a muddled attempt at storytelling, but manages to come together at the end, to make sense of what was happening throughout the film. This is a film that feels like it tells a sadistic story, and is one that only some will enjoy.