Warner Bros. Pictures
Running Time: 104 Minutes
UK Release Date: Friday 27th January 2023
Unwelcome follows married couple Maya (Hannah John-Karmen) and Jamie
(Douglas Booth) as they move into a house inherited by Jamie’s aunt. The film
takes place in rural Ireland but as events unravel the couple start to uncover
a history of strange creatures that have roamed the woods.
The setup of Unwelcome is a fascinating and original folk tale of the
Redcaps which are mortiferous goblins in folklore. What the Redcaps stand for
is revealed throughout certain intervals of the film where the backstory of
Jamie’s aunt is explained. The film examines how transfixed the community are
on whether the Redcaps are real or their mythology is fake. The uniqueness of
the backstory has a substantial appeal in maintaining the continuity of
wondering when or if events will undergo the transitional phase from a minimal threat
to a deadly threat. The Redcap design feels deliberately perplexing but they
serve a certain purpose that was juxtaposed to pre-expectations.
The film has a slow-burn nature to it but you become attached to the
characters in the initial setup. The film has a tense opening sequence that
paves the way for rich themes to be explored throughout. Trauma is played well
throughout the lead performances, as you get to examine how it impacts people
of different personas. As a mother to be Maya (Played by Hannah John-Karmen)
has a tenacity of being strong even in the face of adversity. Jamie (Played by
Douglas Booth) has a charismatic personality where at times he can be smug and
a goofball but seeing how trauma can transpire through alternating
personalities is nuanced. Sympathy is garnered up for the couple as the film progresses.
The lead performances are natural and feel authentic as a couple. The new house
becomes a tragic element of mirroring regarding the trauma, it would be a
detrimental plot event if it was revealed, so I will leave it at that. Director
Jon Wright manages to genre-bust impressively by having attributes of comedy,
drama and horror.
Where Unwelcome excels narratively is the community divide from different
backgrounds. There is already a roof that needs to be repaired in the new house
and the work ethic of the roofing company provokes an interesting clash between
London and Ireland. It was intricate to see the moral compasses of the
characters, despite being a minimal cast.
The most striking part of Unwelcome is the cinematography choices. In an
interview with Cineworld (2023), Director Jon Wright and Cinematographer
Hamish-Doyne Ditmas discussed their uses of the “Panavision Primo
Lenses” which are designed to deliver a high contrast and resolution. A
high contrast has a balance of extremely light and dark areas whilst a high
resolution carries more pixel information in the shots, enabling a
crystal-clear image. Unwelcome utilises the technical prowess to its highest
advantage, as the colours have a profound richness and vibrance in particular
shots. For example, green is vivaciously bright in the countryside scenery
whilst as evening beckons red and orange are dynamically blended together to
give the film a distinctive and technically adept feel to it.
The biggest problem with Unwelcome is the last 10-15 minutes of the film.
The narrative tries to do something jarring regarding a plot twist that occurs
which is unexpected but not earnt. The backstory is glistened upon too
graciously throughout the film, therefore when the twist happens the emotional
connection is non-existent, as the pay-off feels more like an add on rather
than a surmountable knockout twist. The ending felt too forced unfortunately.
Unwelcome is a bizarre experience that excels in originality and technicality
but the film just needed one last strike at the end.
Hannah John-Kamen as Maya
Douglas Booth as Jamie
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell as Aisling
Colm Meaney as Daddy Whelan
Kristian Nairn as Eoin