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In Theaters/On VOD: ANGEL OF MINE (2019)

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ANGEL OF MINE
(Australia/US - 2019)

Directed by Kim Farrant. Written by Luke Davies and David Regal. Cast: Noomi Rapace, Yvonne Strahovski, Luke Evans, Richard Roxburgh, Pip Miller, Tracy Mann, Rob Collins, Rachel Gordon, Finn Little, Annika Whiteley, Indy Serafin, Mirko Grillini. (R, 98 mins)

The Australian-made Lionsgate VOD pickup ANGEL OF MINE, a remake of a 2008 French film of the same name, is a throwback of sorts to the "(blank)-from-Hell" thrillers that were so prevalent in the '90s and will sufficiently scratch that itch if you're nostalgic for the days of THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE and SINGLE WHITE FEMALE. 25 years ago, this probably would've starred Sharon Stone and Nicole Kidman and been the #1 movie in America for at least a couple of weeks. But in 2019, it skips theaters and stars Noomi Rapace--forever the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO--and THE HANDMAID'S TALE's Yvonne Strahovski. Rapace has very quietly built a solid resume of strong performances in VOD and Netflix streaming fare (WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY, CLOSE) and she's at the top of her game here as Lizzie, the divorced mother of ten-year-old Thomas (Finn Little), who spends every other week with her as part of the joint custody she shares with ex-husband Mike (Luke Evans). But Thomas doesn't like being around his mother ("He feels your darkness," Mike admonishes) and Mike has petitioned for full custody. Seven years earlier, their newborn daughter Rosie died in a tragic hospital fire that left significant burn scars on Lizzie's back. She spent a year in a mental institution and hasn't been able to pick up the pieces. Her therapist thinks she's gone off her meds, she can't focus on her job at an upscale cosmetics store, and things start spiraling downward when she takes Thomas to his friend Jeremy's (Indy Serafin) birthday party and sees Jeremy's seven-year-old sister Lola (Annika Whiteley). She instantly senses that Lola is her daughter and becomes obsessed with her, slowly ingratiating herself into the lives of Lola's wealthy parents, Claire (Strahovski) and Bernard (Richard Roxburgh), first by pretending to be interested in buying the house they've just put up for sale, then by tagging along on a trip to an ice skating rink where she inadvertently causes Lola to fall and hit her head. Lizzie also starts lingering outside Claire's and Bernard's house, peering through the privacy fence, hanging out backstage at Lola's ballet recital and distracting her during her performance, and eventually breaking into the house and hiding in a closet.






While Bernard tries to give her the benefit of the doubt ("She lost her baby!"), Claire sees the fixation and doesn't ignore the red flags, warning the clearly unstable Lizzie to stay away from them. Of course, she doesn't, and even with an intervention arranged by Mike, her therapist, and her parents (Pip Miller, Tracy Mann), Lizzie refuses to listen to anyone and insists Lola is her Rosie and will stop at nothing to prove it. Directed by Kim Farrant (2015's little-seen STRANGERLAND), ANGEL OF MINE strains credulity the more it goes on, the pieces don't always add up (Roxburgh's Bernard being particularly clueless), and it ends in a way that's a little more restrained and sympathetic than aficionados of these sorts of thrillers would prefer. But it's carried entirely by the powerhouse performances of Rapace and Strahovski, the former being one of the best actresses around these days, though she still hasn't quite cracked the American A-list market beyond starring in Ridley Scott's PROMETHEUS.


Nevertheless, ANGEL OF MINE is an essential for Rapace fans, as she fearlessly dives into this (including the most uncomfortable and cringe-worthy post-blind date hookup in recent memory), and wisely never overplays the hysteria or careens out of control on the crazy train. Lizzie is a profoundly sad and troubled woman who's crossing lines in increasingly unacceptable ways but still manages to elicit sympathy for her unimaginable loss (Rapace is just heartbreaking when she's in the middle of a tearful meltdown and insists to Claire "I used to be funny!"). Farrant and screenwriters Luke Davies (LION) and David Regal (a TV vet who logged time on RUGRATS, THE WILD THORNBERRYS, and ACCORDING TO JIM, among other shows) allow Rapace to create a fully-developed character instead of a stalker caricature in the way she means no harm to Claire's family--she just knows in her heart that Lola is her child and wants her back and she won't be deterred by threats of a restraining order or the police. A cut above the usual Lionsgate/Grindstone VOD fare, ANGEL OF MINE is generally well-done for this sort of thing, despite a weak and improbable wrap-up. The obligatory "big reveal" in the climax won't really surprise any seasoned movie watcher, but Rapace and Strahovski put forth some valiant effort in selling it.


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