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Film review: Regression is an all-round disaster

By Attitude Magazine


, whose title refers to a discredited psychological practice of inducing restored memories in amnesia patients, drips with titular irony throughout. One imagines that despite Emma Watson’s best efforts to become amnesiac about her part in the cinematic catastrophe, future critics will act as her personal psychologists, recalling the disaster again and again for her edification. On another level, the film resonates deeply with the word’s alternative definition: “a return to a former or less-developed state”. This could be applied word-for-word to describe Watson’s emotionally primitive performance, as well as the film’s ham-fisted, indelicate handling of the issue of rape.

What is most ironic about the film is how the gradual exposure of its central female character as a fraud exactly mirrors the real-world impact of the role on the woman playing it – Watson. As the action progresses, we are expected to buy into the unraveling of Watson’s character, from a well-meaning whistleblower to a conniving, selfish manipulator. This portrayal of abuse victims is nauseatingly calculated and misogynistic.


Throughout the film, the allusions to Satanism and a deeper, mystical truth that is then discredited as meaningless, contrived, human pretence seems to hint at an intended allegory. As viewers, we naively go along with this righteous aim, optimistically brushing off the mediocre performances and poorly paced plot in pursuit of our collective liberation. We are content to bob along, giving the film the benefit of the doubt, and believing that some poignant, existential realisation will be our reward. There are even encouraging moments towards the middle where the film actually feels like a legitimate, suspenseful horror movie.

However, the real horror comes once we reach the conclusion and realise that the great social ill being targeted by this metaphor is not religious abuse, or extremism, or domestic abuse. No, the great lie of society that we are supposed to have risen above is, appallingly, the “myth” of abuse itself. The conclusion can be boiled down quite simply to this: women are liars, and more fool us for ever having been credulous enough to believe in their oppression. The film purposefully incorporates existential, supernatural aspects to hint at the transcendental importance that we assign to oppression in modern society. The unveiling of this mysticism as a fallacy is supposed to be clever and insightful. We are supposed to ooh and ahh at such a searing indictment of contemporary ultraliberalism and our frenzied pursuit of its aims.


Instead, the viewer is left with a sick feeling in the pit of their stomach, ashamed at having been so invested in the action at all. The character that has truly been exposed by the end of the film is Watson’s. How could a UN Ambassador for Women have read this script, accepted it and not identified it for what it was – a crude, delusional and mansplain-y attack on women of the same ilk as Gone Girl? Her participation in this role will irrevocably damage her carefully crafted public image as a Hermione-esque genius, who manages to be simultaneously beautiful, intelligent and socially conscious. Pair this with her dubiously male-focused He for She campaign, and any serious, self-respecting feminist has to start thinking about removing her poster from their bedroom walls. The danger with investing the hopes of a movement on a celebrity like this is that we’re never entirely sure how much depth lies below the surface. Does she genuinely know what she’s talking about, or does she just have very good PR people? Watson has managed to maintain a squeaky clean, trustworthy image for years, but her recent attempts at do-gooding have shown her understanding of the real issues to be clear as dishwater.

The bare-faced arrogance of this script is disgusting. There are no words too strong to condemn the presumption and ignorance of the writers and directors who collaborated to bring it to light. What is so disappointing is that, had the film been sincere and unassuming in its original horror plot, it might actually have pulled it off. What killed it was its attempt to rise above the viewer and above its own story. Do not credit the appalling anti-woman, anti-survivor ideology of this film by seeing it in theatres.