Lee Pace in Halt and Catch Fire Joe MacMillan mode?
Carrie Coon channeling some of that Leftovers grieving parent drama?
I’m sold. Roll the movie, Netflix device.
(90 minutes later)
Well, that was an emotional gut-punch.
(10 minutes later)
Yep. Still crying.
(5 minutes later)
Ok. I’m good.
This is clearly the work of someone, either the writer (Rebecca Sonnenshine) or director (Karen Moncrieff) or both, who experienced some kind of profound loss. So, they came up with a supernatural story idea to work through it. Thus, we have a film about a divorced couple coming back together years later to sell their old house only to find it’s being haunted by their dead 5-year-old son. He appears before them like a flesh and blood normal boy and can even interact with objects around the house, but they can’t touch him and when he gets angry windows and glass break.
It’s a vaguely similar premise to Mike Flanagan’s Before I Wake, but whereas that film largely treads in familiar horror genre tropes before turning sentimental The Keeping Hours plays far more like a domestic drama from beginning to end. Pace and Coon pause their lives to be parents to their son again for however long he’s going to be around. Being in a house together with a son who breaks things with his mind whenever they argue forces them to have their first honest conversations since before their divorce, if not since their son’s funeral.
The plot seems to be heading toward a “the unfinished business preventing him from moving on is that he wants his parents to get back together” conclusion, like some kind of supernatural Parent Trap. But, well, complications arise. The way those complications are handled ventures into Hallmark commercial territory with some of its imagery, but overall the performances are stellar and the film’s softer approach to a supernatural story quietly moving if you are attuned to this kind of material.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is one of those direct to video Universal-Blumhouse efforts the actors probably did for scale and in like 2 weeks in-between TV shows. It’s now just a spec feeding Netflix’s unquenchable thirst for new content. However, for those open to a warmer, gentler ghost story about loss that is unafraid of sentiment and unabashedly features shots like Lee Pace standing on the beach and looking sad while melancholic piano music plays, The Keeping Hours is well worth a watch.
RANDOM PARTING THOUGHTS
- Carrie Coon has to deliver a eulogy for a dead bird at her ghost son’s request, and it turns into a surprising bit of comedy amid the film’s sea of tears.
- Oddly, the primary thing which signals this as an ultra-low budget movie is not the limited setting nor the rather small list of cast members but instead Carrie Coon’s blatantly obvious blonde wig in the opening scene set at her wedding to Pace. It looks like they got it from a bad Elsa from Frozen costume. It’s also only on screen for maybe two minutes. So, it’s not around enough to become a real issue.