Review: Make Up (SXSW 2020)

Title: Make Up
Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Claire Oakley
Starring: Molly Windsor, Joseph Quinn, Stefanie Martini
Runtime: 1 hr 26 mins

What It Is: Ruth (Windsor) moves in with her high school sweetheart Tom (Quinn) after three years of being together. When she finds a lip stain on the mirror and long red hair on his things and in various places, she becomes suspicious that he’s cheated and fallen out of love on her, causing her to question the state of her worth as she finds herself more and more isolated.

What We Think: Wow. If I can compare this film to anything, it would be evocative of works such as The Babadook, It Follows, and The Yellow Wallpaper. A strange and certainly psychological tale that goes in-depth into the mentality of a young woman likely like nothing else you’ve seen before–this film is dangerously good and incredibly powerful. As a young woman myself, I found it painful to watch; therein the position this fellow young woman is put into is the true horror, the idea that she’s in this very odd sort of limbo that is terribly difficult to describe in words for many, though I think many can still relate to it. It becomes something very dreamy, very cerebral. It’s a terrifying sort surreality as this girl is shifted and eventually recreated by the ultimate injustice of not being taken as seriously; she is not enough. Either she’s crazy for being accusing or crazy for feeling distant, too sexual or not sexual enough, not feminine enough or too feminine. This is not the sort of film that leaves you with a resolution, but rather a very dark, deep realization. It’s a sad and very real portrait of what happens to (young) women when they are silently pressured to stay in a box, to be categorized correctly, to fit in under the title of a “woman,” a “supportive girlfriend,” a girl who is expected to “take initiative” despite obviously feeling hurt and is continuously, subtly being left behind by her partner and the people around her. It’s odd, tense, and quietly upsetting. Windsor carries the film on her shoulders like a champion, bringing a charm and sympathetic naturalism to the role; the cast under her follow suit as they deliver a cult-like function that causes feelings of utter displacement. This is a very lonely, very atmospheric, very creepy film, especially if you have been where Ruth is. Is it a horror movie? Not necessarily. And yet, there is a horror to behold in the all too familiar reality that is portrayed.

Our Grade: A, It’s sort of a simple plot, yet what is happening on the emotional level is entirely complex and portrayed with so much detail, implications, symbology, and subtlety that it forces you to reflect on both yourself and the protagonist. Though unsettling upfront, there is so much more to study and understand and connect when it comes to this character. It’s a winding, mysterious pressure-cooker of a film and keeps you lost and suspecting all throughout; it reads like a horror movie and spirals into a weird sort of dissociative state. I cannot recommend this enough to everyone.