The Gaslight Flame Burns Bright in a Thriller Located Somewhere Quiet

Movies Reviews Tribeca 2023
The Gaslight Flame Burns Bright in a Thriller Located Somewhere Quiet

The phrase “gaslight” has been used so often in the past decade that it’s tempting to dismiss it out of hand (if not necessarily try to convince the user that they’re crazy for having done so). But Somewhere Quiet, a modest thriller that debuted in the U.S. Narrative Competition at this year’s Tribeca Festival, earns the term the old-fashioned way: By recalling the classic 1944 thriller Gaslight, wherein a husband attempts to convince his wife to question her own sanity, to better cover up his own criminal activities.

That’s not exactly the premise of Somewhere Quiet, but it explores similar psychological territory without ceding ground to absurdity or buzzwords. We first see Meg (Jennifer Kim) fleeing some kind of traumatizing situation under great distress. Shortly thereafter, we learn that she was the victim of a kidnapping plot, where she was held for an extended period of time but eventually made her way back to her husband Scott (indie mainstay Kentucker Audley). Attempting to soothe her jangled nerves, Scott brings Meg to his family’s ocean-adjacent vacation house in the off-season, when there aren’t many other people around to bother them. Meg is bothered nonetheless, by the surprise presence of Scott’s cousin Madeline (Marin Ireland), staying in another nearby family home.

Ireland has become an elite-level character actress in projects as varied as Hell or High Water, The Irishman, and The Boogeyman; give her five or ten minutes, and she can make your movie that much better. Here she has a more substantial role that has her playing two different notes at once; at any given time, she has to appear warm and welcoming to Scott and off-putting to Meg. She accomplishes this by digging into the kind of chummy presumptuousness that can only be bought with an upper-class line of credit. It’s a perfect deployment of a performer with gravity and charisma, but not movie-star-level familiarity. Is Madeline just a self-possessed rich-woman type, or something more sinister? Even if the movie had no other aspirations toward genre thrills, the scenes between Meg and Madeline would still strain with prickly, sometimes agonizing social tension.

There is more to the movie, however, than the inconvenience of dealing with your husband’s annoying cousin: Meg is experiencing possible hallucinations and sleepwalking in the aftermath of her trauma, which fray at both her sanity and her trust in Scott. Keying into Meg’s state of mind, writer-director Olivia West Lloyd teases menace out of family tradition, observing how the unspoken histories of close, perhaps cloistered family members can look more like bizarre rituals to an outsider. Whether or not there’s something genuinely nefarious about Scott, he’s the picture of a perfectly condescending husband to a trouble heroine: “Remember what Dr. Potter said…” he reminds her, right on cue with an appeal to greater authority. Whether he means to or not, he’s dimming the gaslights.

Occasionally, Lloyd relies on certain thriller mechanics to keep the story moving, mostly involving the degree to which Meg can be convinced, unconvincingly, to remain in a situation that makes her feel somewhere between unsafe and terrified. But Somewhere Quiet is a thriller, not just a moody exercise; it knows when to step back from the issues it raises and deliver real suspense. Lloyd also trusts the terrific performances from Ireland and Kim to put across the movie’s themes, rather than relying on excavating its subtext in dialogue. She understands that any proper heir to Gaslight won’t have its characters talk incessantly about gaslighting. Somewhere Quiet may not quite reach that classic level, but it’s a tightly crafted exercise in the art of seething.

Director: Olivia West Lloyd
Writer: Olivia West Lloyd
Starring: Jennifer Kim, Kentucker Audley, Marin Ireland
Release Date: June 8, 2023 (Tribeca)

Jesse Hassenger is associate movies editor at Paste. He also writes about movies and other pop-culture stuff for a bunch of outlets including Polygon, Inside Hook, Vulture, and SportsAlcohol.com, where he also has a podcast. Following @rockmarooned on Twitter is a great way to find out about what he’s watching or listening to, and which terrifying flavor of Mountain Dew he has most recently consumed.

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