Take a look at this picture. A nice, long look.
Does this picture:
A) Bore you
B) Bore you
C) Intrigue you
D) Bore you
If you picked C, then you’re gonna love, “Séance on a Wet Afternoon”!
Brought to you by Beaver Films.
Two British people, husband and wife, talk for a long time. There are long, dramatic close-ups. There’s opera being played on vinyl. It’s raining outside (I mean, it’s England, so…just a typical day). They talk some more. The scene ends.
The next scene begins and they have a discussion. It’s now by the stairs, so…
Okay, okay, no more wise-cracks. But for real, the first eighteen minutes are just long discussions to tell us, A) the wife is a medium and off her rocker, B) the husband will play along to some kind of scheme the wife is plotting, and C) something happened to a child at some point.
The ultimate ploy is revealed to be kidnapping the little girl of some fancy businessman. But in a twist, it’s not for the ransom money, but so that the wife can be the psychic who finds the girl and…big profits? Okay, so some of it seems half-baked, but it starts going according to plan. The girl is kidnapped, the wife insinuates herself into the parents’ lives, and there’s tons of nervous smoking that only the 60’s can get away with.
However, things start to unravel when the wife now demands that her husband kills the kidnapped child. How’s this poor dude going to handle this? How’s he going to play this? By giving in to her wild demands? By listening to his own rational and conscience?
Séance on a Wet Afternoon has great British/60’s atmosphere in all the best ways. It feels claustrophobic and stiff. It’s dreary and hopeless. The acting is tight, especially from the incredible Richard Attenborough, who also produced it.
The music (although I have to admit could be jarring, sorry) was created by the talented John Barry (Dances with Wolves, Chaplin, and…yes, Bond). And it was directed by the triple-threat, Director-Writer-Producer, Bryan Forbes (The Stepford Wives, Chaplin, and The Man Who Haunted Himself).
Actually, this movie is full to the gills with heavy hitters of the British film and entertainment industry.
So…why did it flop so damn hard?
Honestly, in its time, it was beloved by critics. Leading actor Kim Stanley was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Actress and only lost out to Mary-Flippin’-Poppins. Richard Attenborough won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor, and there were other awards and accolades for this film, but it took a direct nose-dive at the box office and was considered a commercial failure.
And in a way, I can understand why.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked this film, but the pacing is too slow. I love slow-burns, but this slow just didn’t burn…it just kind of molded from the wet afternoon. The actors were terrific, the scenes were beautiful, but it just sludged around the plot and never really reached that pinnacle of suspense it was trying so desperately for.
Brain Roll Juice:
So, child kidnapping. Whoo, that’s a very loaded topic, innit guv’na?
I feel like the movie is very careful at portraying child abduction and I appreciated that fact. The husband is conflicted as much as he’s, well, a criminal. We see his struggle and hardship. He is extremely sympathetic and honestly, my favorite scenes were with him and the child. Seeing him fumble with her sharp questions and intuition at being kidnapped (coughAshLynxcough), and then marveling at her intelligence was an interesting and awkward concept.
I only wished I saw more of it, or had more of her, really. Because the story is not about their child victim, but about the criminals, the villains. And that’s a neat twist and fun concept, but I needed more of the child to understand more about them. I wanted to see the girl dig into his conscience deeper and deeper, driving him mad.
But she eventually is written off without much climax, which is a shame and missed opportunity.
Anyway, I’ll just add this ‘ere, mate: https://www.missingkids.org/HOME
Maybe give them some money and save some children?
Do you like dreary, claustrophobic scenes with British people talking for 18 minutes? If you’ve answered “yes”, then this is the movie for you.(3.5 / 5)