With his second feature film, writer/director Can Evrenol is certainly not grappling with the sophomore slump. Although a bit of a departure from the film that put his name on the map (Baskin), Housewife finds Evrenol toying with dreams and a dreamlike structure in a truly trippy, Giallo style film.
From the very first frame, Housewife is a film that fears and celebrates motherhood in all of it’s varied forms: both the beautiful and the ugly. We meet Holly (Clémentine Poidatz) as a child on a snowy night where everything looks cozy and safe, but as Holly and her sister talk about how their mother only receives visitors when their father is gone, their mother appears and things take a real turn for the worse from here. Holly will witness the death of her older sister and her father at the hands of her mother before she runs out into the night.
We meet Holly again as an adult who still holds onto a lot of the trauma from her childhood. From her inability to properly utilize a bathroom to her fear of getting pregnant, Holly’s life is greatly impacted by what she saw. Married to a writer who uses her as his muse both for his stories and for the art he creates for the books, Holly’s entire existence seems to be that of only fulfilling the most basic female roles that exist. She is a vessel for other people, mainly her husband, to use for their needs. When an old friend reappears after a mysterious two year absence, Holly and her husband will find their lives turned upside down.
The friend in question, Valery (Alicia Kapudag) has been taken in as a family member in the Umbrella of Love and Mind, a strange cult that seems a bit like Scientology. Valery convinces Holly and her husband to attend an event and meet the charismatic leader of this cult. Charismatic may not even accurately describe Bruce O’Hara. Played by David Sakuri, Bruce O’Hara comes dancing onto stage to the tune of I’m Your Boogie Man by KC and the Sunshine Band and, somehow, he makes this look sexy and charming. After a dramatic and showy bit about having a dream about meeting an important woman, Bruce is excited to feel her presence in the room and it is, of course, Holly that he dreamt of. And this is where Housewife becomes one of the most perplexing, gorgeous and brutal movies that has come along in a while.
I’m going to keep it real and straight up admit that after multiple viewings, I cannot confidently say that I fully understand this story, but in no way do I find that to be a negative. As the storyline begins to fold into itself many times over, things just get weirder and weirder and I was one hundred percent here for it. Unlike Baskin, Housewife is more cerebral for the bulk of its run time, so I would caution anyone hoping for something in the same vein, however, there is still blood, gore and WTF moments to be had in the final 30 minutes. Bordering on obscene, Evrenol utilizes gore in a way that feels grossly necessary rather than just for shock value. With the running theme of birth and motherhood, it’s nearly impossible not to bring up Hereditary and Mother! while discussing this film. All three films pay reverence to women, but also treat them with a strange sort of flippancy and all three films leave you scratching your head at the end.
Steeped in reds and blues, Housewife takes you on a journey much the same as Holly’s: it’s a maze of dreams and you can fight it and try to make sense of it, or you can trust in Evrenol and go along for a uniquely surreal journey.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont