Hatching

Sundance 2022: Hatching Review

In the hallway of resentment that links mothers and daughters, some of the most dangerous creature’s roam. For Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) and her mother (Sophia Heikkilä), the central figures in Hanna Bergholm’s debut feature film Hatching, the chasm between them is growing daily. Of course, one would not be able to see the void between them if solely judging their relationship by her mother’s social media feed.

A lifestyle influencer, Tinja’s mother has crafted the perfect image of her family. Online she praises her daughter’s gymnastic skills, makes her spineless husband (Jani Volanen) seem amiable, and obnoxious son Matias (Oiva Ollila) appear playfully rambunctious. It does not take long for this unblemished porcelain vase of domestic life to literally come crashing down when a crow flies through the window one day wreaking havoc. After Tinja captures the bird, she is stunned when her mother coldly snaps the bird’s neck rather than setting it free.

Compassion is clearly not in her mother’s vocabulary, a fact that Tinja is reminded of when she is repeatedly pushed to train for an upcoming gymnastic competition. Perfecting the routine, which her mother plans to livestream, takes precedent over things like making friends and being a regular tween. Considering the sense of isolation Tinja feels, it is understandable that she would shower the empathy and love she desperately lacks at home on to a lone egg she eventually finds in the crow’s nest.

Keeping it warm inside her teddy bear Tinja soon discovers that this is no ordinary egg. It grows and grows until it reaches a point where a human-size bird hatches. Becoming a surrogate mother of sorts to the creature, she even combs and places a flower in its hair, Tinja’s new pet proves to be more than she can handle when it starts to act on her darkest impulses.

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What follows next can only be described as weird and disturbing. Trust me that is a compliment of the highest order.

A chilling, strange, and gruesome tale, Hatching continually defies expectations at every corner. It is filled with weird and off-putting moments that practically dares one to walk away, but the film ultimately rewards those who stay with it. I was about to wave the white flag in resignation at the flower in the hair scene, convinced the film was simply not for me, but Bergholm pulled me back into its allure via one of the film’s numerous turns.

Like Tinja’s inability to easily shake the creature she names Alli, Bergholm’s film festers in one’s mind. Once one gets past the jump scares and vomit, or the fact that no one notices a giant egg in her room, its charm shine through.

The most illuminating aspect of Bergholm’s exercise in terror is the sensational performance by Solalinna. She is the glue that keeps the film bound together, even when it is dipping its bloody talons in the waters of the absurd. Capturing the awkwardness of puberty, including the changes in one’s body and trying to define oneself in the social pecking order, Solalinna inhabits the perfect mix of innocence, anger, and confusion that the road to adulthood is paved with.

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Tinja’s growing rage is not simply fueled by the incessant pestering about the competition, but also the fact that her mother has fallen in love with Tero (Reino Nordin), a widowed handyman who has a young baby. Much like how Alli’s mother was unexpectedly taken from her, Tinja is losing hers to a whole other life.

In its own unique and unsettling way, Bergholm’s film shows how unsustainable the relationships between mother and daughter can become when the pillars of unconditional love and trust are removed. In an age where social media filters have turned personal relationship into a commodity for likes and envy, it is easy to forget that we rarely get a second chance to make meaningful connections with those closest to us.

A wildly original and disturbing work, Hatching marks the arrival of Bergholm as a thrilling new voice in the horror genre.

Head here for more from this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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