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Savage Grace

Tom Kalin’s Savage Grace maps the highs and lows that crushed a decadent American dynasty.

We have waited years for this opaque gem of a film. It is the deeply disturbing true story of a self-destructive, incestuous family directed by cult pioneer of new queer cinema, Tom Kalin. Lushly shot in vintage European holiday destinations and set between 1946 - 1972, its seedy undercurrent pushes along this tragedy like a sea breeze.

The exuberantly wealthy Baekeland couple (Julianne Moore and Stephen Dillane) love to loathe one other. So what happens when these twisted social climbers bear fruit? Sole heir, Tony happens. And clearly Tony never had a chance.

With spoilt-boy pout, delicate skin tones (matched only by Moore herself) and subtle, reigned-in style, London-born Eddie Redmayne is both cool and chilling in Kalin’s best film since 1992’s Swoon. As a boy, his mother decked him out in too-cute sailor outfits and white pumps, while she preened in daring red dresses and tousled auburn hair. He was her constant companion (along with the alcohol), there to reassure her she will be loved forever. Father was somewhat absent.

He barely leaves her side until, at around 18, his sexuality peaks, he sways between genders, drug use increases and his downward spiral steps up a gear. A man-boy unable to grow up and out of his mother’s reach, he is finally hoisted to England, leaving his father behind forever. Once in London mother and son continue to stretch their already obscene relationship to a frayed unhappy end.

Savage Grace is aptly titled. It is beautiful and haunting but unfailingly gritty and ultimately disgusting. It’s skill is in its reticence to reveal all, and even though this story reverberates a chilling truth, it is a spine-tingling pleasure to find its final, wretched close moments still come as a shock.

Savage Grace is out on general release from 11th July.