Directed by: Fouad Mikati
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Shiloh Fernandez, Nick Nolte
Even a piercing performance from Rosamund Pike, coming off the back of her Oscar-nominated turn in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, fails to elevate this plodding and perfunctory rape-revenge thriller from director Fouad Mikati.
Pike plays Miranda, a germophobic nurse living in Midwestern America, whose life is irrevocably changed after a mysterious man named William (Shiloh Fernandez, an actor apparently only equipped with a single facial expression), whom she believed to be a blind date, rapes her. Despite the support offered by her father Mitchell (Nick Nolte, grizzled and gurgling), and the knowledge that her attacker has been arrested, Miranda increasingly finds herself isolated in the weeks that follow her assault. Determined to try move on with her life, she eventually attempts to confront her fears by contacting William directly; firstly by writing him letters, and later by visiting him whilst he’s in jail.
It is thanks entirely to Pike’s perplexing presence that Return To Sender manages to retain a modicum of mystery through to the final reel. Pike’s ethereal eyes show a woman left terrified and traumatised, struggling to move forward with her life. Yet, as she begins to befriend her assailant, Miranda’s façade of vulnerability is suddenly displaced by a cold and icy confidence so chilly it sends shivers down your spine.
Ever the enigma, Pike gleefully toys with Miranda’s emotional expectations in an admirable attempt to wrong-foot the audience. The problem is that she is persistently underserved at every turn by an intolerable script and incoherent direction.
Writers Patricia Beauchamp and Joe Gossett approach to the subject of Miranda’s post-traumatic-stress is stupefyingly superficial; shown through melodramatic meltdowns and a tiresome tremor that reappears every so often solely to remind the audience of her awful ordeal. There’s no effort made on the part of the Beauchamp and Gossett to draw any real emotive depth from Miranda’s torment, and as such, despite Pike’s best efforts, it’s almost impossible to invest in or empathise with her as a character.
Instead the screenwriters endeavor to hide their script behind the veneer of an exploitation piece. But here they’re undone by the gutless and disjointed direction of Mikati. Creatively, his film is almost completely bankrupt; the atmosphere of growing anxiety as Miranda and William become close is belied by Mikati’s breezy pace, the darkness of the material ineffectual when told through his puzzlingly positive palette of colours.
It’s only when we reach the Misery-esc denouement that the director displays any real zeal from behind the camera. But by then, Return To Sender has descended in to something so dull and tedious that it’s no Miranda who feels like the victim… it’s you!