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VOD Review: Marionette

January 21, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Schrödinger’s Cat is a paradoxical thought experiment that involves a hypothetical cat in a box with a vile of poison, and asks if the cat is alive or dead. As the thought experiment goes, it’s both and neither. Either outcome remains possible until we open the box to find out, or is it the act of opening the box that decides the cat’s fate?

This theory in quantum mechanics, named for Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger who thought it up, is the underpinning of Marionette, a pretty good psychological thriller from director Elbert van Strien that is expanded from his 1993 short film.

The film follows Dr. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten), a psychiatrist from upstate New York who moves to Scotland following a tragic event. Marianne is taking over for another psychiatrist (Peter Mullan) who suffered a breakdown, and one of his patients that she inherits is a 10-year-old boy named Manny (Elijah Wolf), whose angry black drawings seem to coincide with real world disasters that have yet to occur.

Marianne starts to have her own grasp on reality threatened when Manny informs her that he can control the future and make things happen with his mind. He tells her there is a gun in her office drawer, and when she opens it up, lo and behold there is one. Did Manny put it in there, or is the gun only there because she opened the drawer? Schrödinger’s Cat, and so on and so forth. The film continues on in this way, introducing ideas about predestination versus free will, and questioning if we are in control of our destinies or just puppets on strings. And, if so, who is pulling the strings?

This central mystery is set up in an involving way, and there is entertainment value to be had in the way Marionette plays around with these ideas, though it does occasionally get bogged down by them. Despite this high concept premise, there is an air of familiarity to the film, with elements that feel borrowed from other “creepy kid” movies like The Ring and The Sixth Sense (though, to be fair, I have not seen the original short that predates both of them, so I can’t say how much is lifted from that).

The film is also very much a slow burn at nearly two hours, and I think there are ways that it could have been tightened up a bit. The screenplay (co-written by Strien and Ben Hopkins) has some inconsistent uses of voiceover, as well as a romantic subplot that feels slightly undercooked, and it can’t quite sustain itself through the last act with a final ending that may strike some as a bit of a cop out.

But Marionette is carried by a pair of decent performances from Reuten and Wolf, and there are some fine editing choices that weave in flashes of Marianne’s backstory. The film poses enough interesting philosophical ideas to make it work as an intriguing and mostly entertaining little head scratcher, that is able to hold our attention for the most part and keep us guessing.

Marionette is now available on a variety of Digital and VOD platforms. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

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