The lore of the magic and witches in Circle is absolutely spellbinding stuff. Nothing is overexplained to the point of becoming mundane, but it is all filled in with enough detail to emerge as something unique. It is clear that Davis took the time to think about how he wanted the magic in his screenplay to work and ensured that it was all present without overpowering the drama. The connection to the park, why Katka is drawn there, makes sense, as do most everyone’s motives. Everyone that is, save for the character of Boozy Suzy who, as far did nothing to further any character arcs nor move the plot forward in a meaningful way. Her design and costume are great, but she is pointless… unless she is also meant to be the witch trying to convince Katka to take up the cross. If so, that connection is not made clear enough to work.
“…manages to never wander into soap opera territory…”
It certainly helps the drier portions of the film that the cast is so good. Dame’s concern for Eleanor is never in doubt, nor are her powers as a witch. Upon seeing Stacy again, her marvel at how young she (still) is is believable. Mindell is charming as Mr. Peter, who speaks quite cryptically, but the actor manages to never wander into soap opera territory, which could have happened with a different actor. Christine Perry is all energy and fun until she’s not. That turn is creepy, and she sells it well.
With its rather obvious special effects (an intentional callback to shoot-on-video, perhaps?), lengthy runtime, and incomplete dramatic backstory, Circle will not appeal to everyone. But if audiences can get through the first 15-20 minutes, they’ll find a supernatural lore unlike any other. The solid acting and impressive directing (Davis’ use of long, single takes is masterful) anchor what characterizations are there, making this production a flawed yet worthwhile journey to take.
"…a supernatural lore unlike any other."