SHUT IN (2016)
Directed by Farren Blackburn
A couple decide to send their son away following his expulsion from school. Whilst the father is driving the son to his destination, the two argue causing the car to skid in front of a lorry.
Six months later, we see the mother, child psychologist Mary Portman, caring for her paralysed son following her husbands death. Having cared for her son alone for 6 months, she takes the decision to have him moved into a care home as she struggles to juggle both his needs and that of the children she sees in her profession. Having to also cope with the grief of losing her husband, she also struggles to see the boy she once knew as her son in the body she now feeds, cleans and clothes.
Meanwhile, Tom, a young patient of hers, goes missing after paying her an impromptu visit during the night. With the town experiencing a snowstorm, Mary worries for Tom’s safety in the harsh weather and experiences visions of the little boy wandering around the house. Fearing Tom is dead and she’s being haunted by his ghost, Mary is reaching breaking point but could the little boy still be alive?
Playing on the idea of family and troubles we have with our kids, SHUT IN takes a closer look at how relationships can become strained between youngsters and their guardians, whether they’re blood parents or otherwise. In this film, Naomi Watts plays stepmother to Stephen after marrying his father Richard when Stephen was 5 years old. We learn how Stephen’s biological mother died when he was young, which affected him, but also sought him to have a closer bond between himself and his step-mother, having lost his own. Everything seemed rosie until he hit his teenage years when something clearly wasn’t right with the young man, resulting in him getting expelled from school. Treating him as both a son and a patient didn’t seem to work, leaving the couple no choice but to send Stephen away. Her guilt in having chosen this path haunts her as she knows this is the day that she lost both her husband and Stephen.
Mary seems ones of those mother’s who seems be trying her best but is succumbing to the stresses that life has dealt her. Her obsession in helping deaf boy Tom who visits her psychology clinic appears to be as though she’s overcompensating for not helping Stephen before it was too late. With Tom in the hands of social services, he too is being taken away from her, and she feels as though what progress she does make is snatched away at the last second.
When Tom appears at her house unannounced before fleeing when he suspects she’s calling the police, Mary goes into full panic mode. We see her gradually break down as she fears for the safety of the young boy who she was the last to see. Juggling this with her day job and full time care of her disabled son, it’s not surprising that she fears she’s going crazy. Hearing noises in the walls and receiving visits from a muddied Tom in the night only fuel her paranoia which leaves her wondering around her secluded home armed with a torch, suspecting to find more spectres in the night. What is real anymore?
SHUT IN is fine thriller that effectively makes use of its isolated surroundings, particularly in a season that cuts off most of the town from each other. With snow storms providing more isolation for Mary, her experiences are amplified as she must trust in only what she herself experiences. For us viewers as onlookers, we understand how much stress she’s under so it’s hard for us to decipher whether what she’s seeing is real or not, with only the outlook of her associates providing a true glimpse into the reality which Mary is experiencing.
Whilst there are some predictable plot twists at times, SHUT IN plays out incredibly well and made me jump on more than one occasion thanks to some well placed visual and audio cues. Although there’s nothing here we’ve not seen before, the story feels tightly kept together to keep you invested until the credits roll. Strong performances from Naomi Watts, Charlie Heaton (Stephen), Oliver Platt (Dr Wilson) and Jacob Tremblay (Tom) make this an entertaining effort.