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SUNDANCE 2022 Midnight

Review: Hatching

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- Leave it to Hanna Bergholm’s Finnish oddity to announce there is another Birdman in town

Review: Hatching
Siiri Solalinna in Hatching

There seems to be a whole subgenre of stories that go awry following an encounter with a bird – from Valentyn Vasyanovych’s Venice title Reflection [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Valentyn Vasyanovych
film profile
]
to Hereditary and now Hanna Bergholm’s Hatching [+see also:
trailer
interview: Hanna Bergholm
film profile
]
. So next time something strikes your window or flies into the house, just leave it be, and maybe – maybe – things won’t get worse. It’s time to finally start learning important life lessons from films, even the ones shown in Sundance’s Midnight section.

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Bergholm’s Hatching (not to be confused with The Hatching, notable for its tagline “Mother nature bites back” and, hilariously enough, also featuring some eggs) is the kind of horror-tinged movie that makes you think more than it makes you jump. It’s not – let’s whisper this – exactly scary, drenched in millennial pink and more sun than poor Finland has probably seen in months. But things still get disturbing, and quickly, as teenager Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is about to find out that her Stepford wife-ish mum (Sophia Heikkilä), who is also a lifestyle influencer, doesn’t take too kindly to wild creatures invading her carefully curated interiors.

She doesn’t take too kindly to many things, actually – it’s as if Reese Witherspoon’s characters in Big Little Lies and Legally Blonde suddenly morphed into one from being shaken too hard. Tinja has all the ingredients it takes to be popular, but socialising is not encouraged at her house – focus and ambition are. Already stressed out about qualifying for the upcoming gymnastics competition, soon enough, she has to deal with more secrets, including one that has been safely stored away in the organic waste disposal. That’s the beauty of the “Finnish weird wave” – with all the crap going on here, like infidelity, mangled teddy bears and a whole lotta slime, people still remember about the recycling.

The creature that eventually makes an entrance, after Tinja brings an odd-looking egg home to hatch as her own, is actually wonderful. Courtesy of Gustav Hoegen, responsible for some great Star Wars critters, it’s ugly and yet somewhat touching, longing for closeness and affection. It’s a shame it needs to transform later on, echoing those terrible conversations about one’s body “going through some changes” when growing up. It could have granted this little film something iconic.

Then again, it seems that Bergholm’s ambitions (or writer Ilja Rautsi’s, who delighted the world with the shorts Helsinki Mansplaining Massacre and The Night of the Living Dicks, and this time opted for a much simpler title, sadly) lie beyond the “creature feature”. Showing that it’s hard out there for a girl, Hatching takes and twists many familiar-sounding problems: body dysmorphia, eating disorders, the desire to be accepted and a codependent relationship with one’s mother. It’s fun, but it’s also hardly surprising – horror loves teenage girls and their many struggles, and has for a while.

You can see where it’s all heading a little too early (and using lullabies should be off-limits in the post-Krzysztof Komeda world), but Tinja’s bond with her foundling is definitely interesting. Isolated and fragile, she agrees that you are responsible for what you have tamed, just like in The Little Prince [+see also:
trailer
making of
film profile
]
– occasional pet sacrifice be damned. If a parent expects you to be perfect or opts for more distance, like Tinja’s dad, who gave up making any decisions a long time ago, a monster that lives in your closet can provide you with company, and it can make you feel in control. It can make you feel better about yourself. There is a reason why little girls like yelling at their dolls, telling them they are ugly.

Hatching was produced by Finland’s Silva Mysterium and Sweden’s HOBAB. Its sales are overseen by Wild Bunch International.

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