Return to Sender
dir Fouad Mikati
scr Patricia Beauchamp, Joe Gossett
prd Candice Abela-Mikati, Holly Wiersma
with Rosamund Pike, Nick Nolte, Shiloh Fernandez, Camryn Manheim, Illeana Douglas, Rumer Willis, Alexi Wasser, Scout Taylor-Compton, Stephen Louis Grush, Donna Duplantier, Ian Barford, Billy Slaughter
release UK 22.May.15
15/US Voltage 1h36
Return to Sender
I can take care of myself: Nolte and Pike

nolte fernandez douglas
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Return to Sender Bright and cheerful, then darkly upsetting, this drama has an unusually realistic tone as it echoes the central character's conflicting emotions. Intriguingly it also takes an unexpected approach to recovering from a trauma that gets under the skin, constantly threatening to unravel at any moment. Alas, that's just what it does.

Hygiene-obsessive, cake-baking nurse Miranda (Pike) is yearning to buy a new house and get a better job so her dad (Nolte) will stop worrying about her. She reluctantly lets another nurse (Willis) set her up on a blind date, and the seductive guy who shows up, William (Fernandez), viciously attacks her. Now stuck in both her job and home, she's determined to get on with her life, contacting William in prison, much to her dad's horror. And as his parole date approaches, it's unclear if one of them is playing the other. Maybe both are.

Yes, despite the earthy approach, the filmmakers continually threaten to flip everything into silly melodrama. Along the way, the story begins to explore the much more interesting fallout after a brutal sexual assault. This is complex and unpredictable, full of dramatic and emotional possibilities as Miranda faces her fears, both connecting with William and learning to love her dad's aggressive dog Benny ("Hating him only hurts me"). And yet the script feels far more interested in a more formulaic approach.

Pike gives a superb performance as a sharp young woman who refuses to let this destroy her. The scene in which she defiantly confronts William is terrific, as are other elements of her detailed introspective performance. Nolte is solid as her wheezy, protective single dad. And Fernandez is magnetic as the thug who shifts from charming to brutal in the blink of an eye, even if he's not nearly as complex as he should be.

Sadly, the main tension in the film is whether it can hold its nerve rather than turning into melodramatic schlock. Not only does director Mikati overstate his themes and sidestep the actual horror, he also belittles the deeper impact of rape, using it merely as a catalyst for the plot, rather than genuinely exploring its prolonged impact on the victim, her family and friends. And when the demands of a genre movie kick in, and Miranda's simple approach to taming Benny and rehabilitating William feels like a cheat.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 20.May.15

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