Strange But True

THRILLER; 1hr 36min

STARRING: Nick Robinson, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear

Dead end: Robinson

Here’s a question worth chewing on: what if the girlfriend (Margaret Qualley as Melissa) of your much-loved teenage son (Connor Jessup as Ronnie) shows up at your house one day hugely pregnant with his baby...except that he has been dead for five years? If, like Ronnie’s mother, Charlene (Ryan), you’re already seething over life’s assorted injustices—an errant ex-husband and a lost library job are numbers two and three on her shitlist—you erupt into the anger that has become your default.


Ronnie’s younger brother, Philip (Robinson), is prepared to consider the frozen-sperm option, aka post-mortem cryogenic preservation, as an explanation for Melissa’s delicate condition. Charlene violently resists this at first but later rethinks her stance, because if this really is Ronnie’s baby, what other sane option is there? And if a donation did go down, she furiously surmises, who better to have done the deed than her ex-spouse-louse, Richard (Kinnear), whom she accidentally learns hasn’t lost touch with Melissa, and who conveniently happens to be a gynaecologist? No wonder Charlene is permanently peeved.


In other news, Melissa has become something of a substitute daughter to her neighbours (Blythe Danner and Brian Cox, in one hell of an up-there cast), who of course have headaches of their own, this being a headachy neighbourhood. Also, Melissa has paranormal leanings and suffers from blackouts. As if we all don’t have enough to deal with...


If his lead-up feels a tad padded and protracted, in his defence director Rowan Athale has a lot of ground to cover. But once he passes the halfway point and his joint, adapted from John Searles’s 2004 novel, commences to jump, skiddy hairpin bends are on for young and not-so. They peak with a showdown so tensely wound I was yelling at the screen. For a relatively pint-sized production, these murky suburban truths end up packing a rattling punch.