Leah (Gaby Hoffmann) is a sensitive young woman. The mother of a toddler, Lyle, and with a second child on the way, she and her partner June (Ingrid Jungermann) need a new apartment. But this one just doesn’t feel right. Karen (Rebecca Street), the manager of the apartment building harbors a creepy baby fixation that she simply can’t contain in front of the potential tenants. And Leah just senses… something about this place. Nevertheless, if June says they can afford the place, and it’s way bigger than their last; so it seems they have found their new home. And of course, the couple is not in the apartment long before tragedy strikes.
Fast forward seven months later and Leah is haunted with feels of guilty and grief that don’t subside during her entire pregnancy. Not even therapy can dissuade her from her suspicions of foul play, which are focused squarely on Karen, the building’s manager.
As her due date draws near, Leah stumbles upon clues. In discoveries both accidental and sought after, she finds proof that she is not being paranoid; proof of foul play in the recent death in her family. And, she is lead to more and more people in on the perceived conspiracy. But no one will believe the ravings of a lonely, hormonal pregnant woman. With each passing day, she is losing people and places to run to. She must find a way for herself and her new baby to escape, or be doomed to a terrible similar fate.
OK. This is a pretty good film. The ensemble of actors all gives fine performance, but for my money the film craft is the star of this film. Shot with a very distinct style designed to condense and control every image that the audience sees, giving sound design a hugely important, augmented role in the telling of this tale. Selling the eerie, haunting emptiness Leah is experiencing is critical to understand her headspace. Complied with the fact that her partner June never seems to be around, the seeds of Leah’s paranoia are sown beautifully. The fluid focus is both seductive and unsettling. The classic conventions of suspense and tension are played to perfection… almost.
Here’s the thing: I think the director may be winking at the audience. As you watch this film these employed conventions of the genre become more and more exaggerated, almost to the degree of pointing to itself. Is it Leah’s paranoia peaking, or is her world actually turning inside out?
I changed my mind. This is a pretty great film. It toys with the concept of perception. Everything Leah is seeing and deciphering from her surroundings could easily be a manifestation of her mind or a legit plot to harm her unborn child.
I’m sure the mass majority will watch this film and unmistakably experience a psychological thriller. But Lyle could easily be a dark comedy. Not in the so-bad-it’s-good kind of way; but rather wicked and shocking in an Evil Dead kind of way. That it could be either genre is an asset to this project because it demonstrates the film’s potential across fandoms; it allows each audience member to have the experience that is most organic to them, subjectively and personally.
I did not stick around of the Q&A with the Director Stewart Thorndike, because most folks won’t have that opportunity. Moreover, I didn’t want to spoil it if she actually did have an intention in one direction of the other. I will simply say this of the movie experience Lyle has given me: Well Done.
Lyle is an official selection of 32nd Outfest LGBT Film Festival happening July 10-20, 2014.