Marionette, written by Ben Hopkins and Elbert van Strien and directed by Elbert van Strien, is about Dr. Marianne Winter (Thekla Reuten). She arrives at a new job and struggles to discern reality when her 10-year old patient, Manny (Elijah Wolf), claims he controls it. The film is a fascinating exploration of reality, perception, and self-fulfilling prophecy. I love movies that deal with those weighty philosophical topics. Marionette has a fantastic story and plot, but the climax feels inconsistent and unclear with the film’s events.
In the beginning, we see a man we later learn is Dr. McVittie (Peter Mullan) set himself on fire. Then we start our journey with Dr. Marianne Winter. After suffering a loss, Marianne moves to another country for a new therapist job. There she meets her patient Manny, a quiet and hostile young boy who spends sessions drawing. We soon learn his previous therapist was Dr. McVittie, who survived and now resides in a mental hospital. As Marianne tries to converse with Manny, he claims he brought her here. She clearly does not believe him, and he cautions her there’s a gun in her drawer, but only if she looks.
Mind-Boggling Exploration of Perception/Reality
Marionette’s strength lies in this exploration of reality and how our actions or inactions affect our world. The film is similar to movies where people learn of a dark future, and in their fight to avoid it, they wind up fulfilling it. When Marianne finds the gun in her drawer, questions arise. She wonders did Manny sneak and put it there, was it there because she looked. Later, a club Marianne attends discusses the idea of two realities existing at the same time with the Schrödinger’s cat in the box theory. The theory that states that until you open the box, the cat is both alive and dead. It deals with perception and observation and what constitutes reality.
Marianne resists believing Manny and lies to him about finding the gun in the drawer, which escalates events. Angry, Manny starts to draw another picture. This picture is of Marianne’s new love interest, Kieran (Emun Elliot), in peril. All of Manny’s drawings deal with danger and death. If Manny does indeed control reality, don’t expect beauty, joy, and dandelions. Marianne obsesses over Manny, finding answers and avoiding his prophetic drawings, bringing to mind The Twilight Zone. Notably, the episode “Nick of Time” where William Shatner’s character becomes obsessed with a small fortune-teller machine in a diner. Does knowing create the reality, or would it still occur if one was clueless?
Acting Hits The Mark
Marionette builds tension throughout the majority of the film. Thekla Reuten does a masterful job conveying grief, fear, and that risky determination to know the truth even when the truth does you no favors. Elijah Wolf is terrifying. Despite being a child, the way he speaks carries a menace that grows as the film progresses. All I was thinking was someone take away his papers and all drawing utensils asap. I also loved seeing Peter Mullan since I remember him from another psychological film, Session 9.
The ending, I watched several times, and I still did not understand how they arrived at that conclusion. There were not enough clues throughout the film to close with that ending. Still, the ending does not detract from my enjoyment of the movie. Marionette may not stick the landing, but as psychological thrillers go, this is one of the better ones I’ve seen. Marionette is ambitious, dreadful and terrifying in spite of some plot chinks. However, I try not to overthink reality or quantum physics particles and waves. If I did, I’d fall down the rabbit hole of obsession like Marianne. Who knows? Perhaps we are all someone’s marionette.
Marionette releases on demand on Cable, Amazon and Vimeo on November 3, 2021.