To The Moon Image

To The Moon

By Andrew Stover | September 16, 2022

Written, directed, and starring Scott Friend, To the Moon distorts the line between reality and the hallucinatory. With beguiling characters and strong direction, this is a compellingly warped journey centering on fractured relationships glued together by layers of deceit, jealousy, and manipulation. The filmmaker sets his tale in a single location with just three characters.

The drama follows Dennis (Friend) and Mia (Madeleine Morgenweck), a married couple grieving over the loss of their baby. Alone together at Dennis’ family cabin, they hope to reignite their romance away from any distractions. Still, there is an apparent distance between them. Dennis walks the dog while Mia stays back.

One day, Dennis and Mia wake up to find Dennis’s estranged brother, Roger (Will Brill), in the front yard doing breathing exercises. He’s an eccentric who has lived off the grid for years and has found enlightenment through religion. From the moment he arrives, Roger is intent on spreading his spiritual musings as well as any life advice he has for the couple. This intrusion doesn’t bother Mia as much as it irks Dennis, who is convinced that Roger is doing more harm than good. Between Dennis and Roger, Mia is overwhelmed by them both. They tend to manipulate Mia, thus making it more grippingly involved because both men are unreliable narrators. There is a necessary uncertainty surrounding what is or isn’t real on account of Dennis, an aspiring actor and recovering addict, detoxing from drugs.

“…[Roger’s] intrusion doesn’t bother Mia as much as it irks Dennis.”

To the Moon kindles suspense gradually and does so at a remote cabin, once again proving to be an ideal setting for confronting personal demons. A simple remark or a conspicuous leer helps to drive a wedge between the characters. Dennis is hesitant to talk about work to the point he seems to be avoiding the truth. In a powerfully subdued performance, Friend plays a recovering addict without any forced embellishment. When the actor must react vociferously, he pulls it off convincingly.

Brill is easily the standout, skillfully wavering between a brusque, warm, and sly demeanor to keep Dennis and the viewers on edge. Not knowing what he will do or how he will react at any moment is a significant part of the fun and terror. This works because Roger isn’t exactly trustworthy, going out of his way to help Dennis and Mia heal from their trauma, which could be seen as suspicious since he only just arrived.

Throughout To The Moon, Friend develops compelling characters with a loose grasp on what they’re feeling as a result of their strange circumstances. That being said, the pacing struggles amid the second half as Dennis, Mia, and Roger and their subsequent behavior is not probed too extensively. This especially hamstrings Mia, whose perspective would’ve been interesting to see more of as she deals with trauma and the manipulation of two cunning men. However, she does get to shine in the conclusion.

Even with some pacing issues, this is a thoughtfully written and beautifully shot thriller. Paired with the eerily detached camerawork, the peculiar visual elements (cloaked figures, weird dreams, a spontaneous dance) add to the mystery of who is succumbing to a false reality and who is controlling the narrative. Friend’s directorial debut is singular and memorable, foregrounding relationships eroded by trauma and lies while concomitantly exploring the convoluted nature of addiction and spiritual healing. To the Moon generates extreme unease throughout its runtime and ultimately sticks the landing.

To The Moon (2022)

Directed and Written: Scott Friend

Starring: Scott Friend, Will Brill, Madeleine Morgenweck, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

To The Moon Image

"…singular and memorable..."

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