Things Heard And Seen Review
A slow burner of a Friday night flick
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
✦ Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
✦ Released 29 April 2021
✦ Runtime: 2h 1min
The latest Netflix original to hit our living rooms, Things Heard & Seen starts off on the right foot, but ends as another underwhelming watch that leaves you wondering if it was worth any of your time at all.
It may be no surprise that many of you haven’t heard of the film’s Directors, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, but the pair do have a few nominations and even an Emmy award under their belt, with American Splendor (2003), The Extra Man (2010) and Cinema Verite (2011) as some of their most recognised work.
For their latest feature, the duo wrote the screenplay for Things Heard & Seen based off of the 2016 novel, All Things Cease to Appear, by Elizabeth Brundage. Set in 1980, a talented artist, Catherine, reluctantly relocates to the Hudson Valley with her husband, George, and their young daughter. Before long, Catherine suspects that all is not as it seems, both in her marriage and their new home.
From the off, the film pulls you in as a viewer with an intriguing storyline, a talented on-screen couple, and its familiar tropes of religion and spooky occurrences. Amanda Seyfried (Mank, Mamma Mia! and Mean Girls) stars as the “unheard” wife, Catherine, seemingly giving everything and taking a step back in her own career in order to help her husband thrive.
The husband, George, is played by James Norton (Little Women, Happy Valley, and Mr. Jones), who does a stellar job of capturing the distasteful and selfish actions of his character, making him far from likeable.
The two actors work well together, intentionally lacking chemistry, and flourishing when delivering the rising tensions and heated arguments written into the story. Their on-screen relationship and script certainly makes the first two acts of the film enjoyable, but more so as an exploration of a strained and unmatched couple, which is almost mirrored by the unusual ongoings in their new home. At night, parts of the house come alive, from flickering lights, to moving chairs and even the smell of burning petrol. It seems that as their relationship deteriorates, the sinister threats around them grow stronger.
– Catherine (Things Heard & Seen, 2021)
Alas, as the third act and final moments play out, you can’t help but feel that the movie has become muddled in direction. There’s too much going on, so much so, that a lot of side-plots, and even co-stars, get lost along the way; Catherine’s eating disorder, whilst important, is handled as if it’s irrelevant, the two gardeners have an interesting backstory but their characters never really come into fruition enough for you to care, and Natalie Dyer’s (Stranger Things) role is disappointing because she is used purely to convey another one of George’s personality traits.
Things Heard & Seen didn’t help itself by being marketed as a drama horror either, especially when it offered next to nothing in terms of genuine scares, tension, or eerie moments. The film’s final sequence was the most lacklustre of all; the build up to the big crescendo had been hinted at all throughout the film and so it was no surprise what the ending would entail. The ridiculous seance scene, research into the hidden ghosts, and the multiple references to the Valley of the Shadow of Death painting meant that breadcrumbs throughout the film were far too transparent. The story and conclusion would have benefited from some element of mystery, and what’s worse, is that the ending featured an over-use of metaphors, awful CGI, and played out as an episode of one of the poorer supernatural TV shows.
If Things Heard & Seen forgot about the horror elements and allowed itself to get lost in the key trope of a broken marriage, without trying to overcomplicate itself, it may have just cracked it. It could have been a lot more enjoyable and you wouldn’t have watched the credits roll with a bitter taste in your mouth.
If you’re looking for a mediocre flick to watch at home, you’ve got it. If this was screening at the Cinema, we can only imagine the box office ratings.
Available to watch now on Netflix UK