By ABBIE BERNSTEIN / Staff Writer
Posted: Jun 9, 2022 / 3:01 pm
Stars: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Madalina Anea
Writer: Chloe Okuno, based on the screenplay by Zack Ford
Director: Chloe Okuno
Distributor: IFC midnight
Release date: June 3, 2022
OBSERVER is a thriller film set and filmed in Bucharest, Romania. Adapting a screenplay by Zack Ford, director/writer Chloe Okuno makes the most of everything the city has to offer, knowing that most of her viewers will find her just as new and mysterious as the protagonist.
This is Juliet (Maika Monroe). As a New Yorker, she is a stranger in a strange country, doesn’t know the country and is trying (with very slow success) to learn the language.
Julia accompanied her marketing husband Francis (Karl Glusman) to Romana after he accepted a promotion. Francis is American but his mother is Romanian; He speaks the language fluently and knows his stuff.
The new apartment has huge windows. Unfortunately, the scenic view is only of the building across the street. Julia becomes aware that someone seems to be watching her constantly from this building.
Julia’s consciousness is alerted when it appears that the man (Burn Gorman) followed her first to a movie theater and then to the supermarket. Both Francis and a local police officer tend to attribute Julia’s fears to misunderstanding, boredom turned to hysteria, or both. Only the new friend Irina (Madalina Anea) takes Julia’s concerns seriously.
Looking for evidence of her instincts, Julia begins to watch the neighbor. That makes Julia herself an observer. At the same time, Bucharest is being terrorized by a serial killer/rapist named Spider.
Credit goes to Okuno for, just for starters, making us believe that Julia is going out alone despite this threat. The filmmaker has a strong partner in Monroe, who quietly allows insight into Julia’s feelings and thoughts. The performer is reserved but has an expressive face that says a lot.
Gorman also manages to be ambiguous and extremely unnerving, using silence and a rarely raised voice.
Okuno uses space and darkness to illustrate Julia’s isolation. The filmmaker also plants some solid clues and at least one top-notch misdirection, where what at first appears to be a continuity error actually hints at character strategy.
OBSERVER reminiscent of some old-school thrillers where atmosphere takes precedence over story. In fact, we’re wrong every time we think a plot twist might be coming.
OBSERVER goes exactly where it seems to be going, which can make it a bit slow for some viewers. After some deliberation, however, Okuno remains true to the concept. In real life, many people like Julia would have the same reactions to the possibility of danger from a barely-seen stranger. Disbelief, curiosity, and doubt would all come with fear, and Okuno and Monroe give each of them the right they deserve.
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