“Mountain Rest” directed by Alex O (sic) Eaton is a chamber drama shot almost entirely in the director’s family’s cabin with three strong female leads and gorgeous postcard-perfect shots of the Blue Ridge Mountains. When first released the film was hyped as a “surreal drama” but I found it to be bot nearly as surreal as it is ominous.
Frankie takes her teenage daughter Clara (Natalia Dyer) to meet her ailing grandmother (Frances Conroy), a retired Hollywood actress, for the first time at her cabin in the mountains, where old resentments resurface. Dyer who is already 21-years-old remarkably uses her waifish looks to portray a teen more convincingly than an actual teenager would and we really see this when when she nervously samples a glass of wine or tries for some ambiguous flirtation.
Dyer is aware that she is playing someone who understands both the insecurity of late adolescence and the lurking perils of adulthood. Conroy plays a flamboyant Norma Desmond type past-her-prime starlet, and clearly enjoys every moment. As the mother caught between these two women, Frankie (Kate Lyn Sheil) is the mother caught between the two generations of women has an almost thankless role, mainly reacting to the younger woman with concern and the older with resentment. Bascolm (Shawn Hatosy) is the only male actor and is upstaged by the three women. His character is a bit ambiguous (a scheming gigolo, or just a faithful caretaker?).
The four are in a cabin for a couple of days and while sparks threaten to fly, nothing really ignites. A secret is exposed, but it is quite dull. We sense the threat to venture into scary psychological thriller territory but never quite get there. The film suggests a sense of danger around Clara that never materializes. She meets the local teens and drinks beer/smokes pot, and soon thereafter is mysteriously hypnotized by a mountain stream. Later, in the film’s single eerie sequence, we see her visiting the stream again, but in a dream. She eavesdrops on conversations between her mother and the caretaker, or her grandmother and her dead husband. There is a level of taboo sexual tension that develops between her and Bascolm. Clara discovers a knothole in the bathroom door and becomes wound up and nervous.
The three actresses create a realistic, distrustful-yet-fond generational dynamic among each other, one that often plays out as more gripping than the dialogue shows. The cinematography is pro, the music well-chosen. Eaton has created miniature moments of subtle unease but the story stays restrained and every time it threatens to move in a dangerous direction, it pulls back. Eaton exhibits talent to craft individual scenes and shots that hint at deeper meaning and menace and we should be seeing some great films from her in the future.