Tilda Swinton movingly incarnates both mother and daughter in this atmospheric film by Joanna Hogg.
In The Souvenir (2019) and The Souvenir Part II (2021), Tilda Swinton and daughter Honor Swinton Byrne respectively played Rosalind and Julie – modelled loosely on writer-director Joanna Hogg (Exhibition, IFFR 2014) and her mother. The Eternal Daughter transposes the Julie-Rosalind relationship into another setting, decades later – and this time Swinton takes both roles.
The setting is a somewhat spooky, mist-covered, largely empty mansion in Wales, now a hotel, but once the place where Rosalind grew up. Hogg offers a frisson of mystery and suspense, with a nod to such minimalist masters as Jacques Tourneur and Jack Clayton – much is carried by the delicate design of off-screen sound. Yet the film’s true heart is the tender but complex bond between mother and daughter. Where does one identity end and the other begin? What roles do they find themselves now playing?
Do not expect the typical trickery of films featuring one actor in two roles: there are no shots over the shoulder of a stand-in, and little digital compositing – except at the most necessary, heart-breaking moment. The cast is small, but Carly-Sophia Davies is unforgettable as the bitchy, indifferent receptionist – and a dog named Louis (Swinton’s own) almost steals the show.