“Greta” makes no effort to hide what it is: another standard centerpiece of the movie season, this one plucked from the horror bin.
The film, directed by Neil Jordan, stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen, a sheepish waitress living in New York making the most of her overtly boring days. McCullen, before the event of the film, lost her mother to cancer and has a rough relationship with her father Chris, played by Colm Feore, who works as a business executive. McCullen finds a lost purse on the subway and naturally returns it to the address listed with the purse. She meets widow Greta Hideg, a French piano teacher who suffers from continual loneliness due to her daughter studying in France. Over time, the two develop a friendly, almost motherly relationship. However, things are not as they seem.
“Greta” has a little bit of everything. It has the gripped heartstrings from a slice-of-life film, the mystery and intrigue from a thriller, and the personalized punishment of a horror film. Surprisingly, this approach to filmmaking doesn’t really detract from the film’s overall presence. Many other directors have tried the “have it all” approach and failed but Jordan succeeds with this film.
The film’s power comes from a contradiction: it simultaneously portrays a real and quite frightening scenario, and a mythic horror tale that doesn’t feel so much like a real story but more like a cautionary tale. During the events of the film, Moretz’s character discovers that Greta has not been entirely truthful with her, as she finds a cabinet full of identical purses labeled with names, including McCullen’s. After this encounter, McCullen decides that it’s best to stop spending time with Greta.
This is where the film begins to take another turn entirely. The horror elements become much more apparent in terms of lighting and cinematography. When Greta appears, it’s using that famous “offset shot” that is common to horror movies. Greta stalks McCullen and her roommate Erica, confronts her at work, and even makes a scene at her apartment building. These events set off the final straw for Greta and she kidnaps McCullen. Greta begins to put on an illusion, which adds to the film’s horror element. Greta and McCullen begin playing this charade of mother and daughter with McCullen being forced to play the piano and learn French, but when she messes up, Greta results to violent means to teach McCullen to make no mistakes.
The film makes no concessions in the truly horrific experience of Greta. The visual case file presented by director Jordan starts to make the audience question their own sanity. After all, at the base level, the actions that Greta takes to secure McCullen’s companionship are actions that most people have thought about when they lose someone they love. That is not to say that stalking, abuse, and kidnapping are all things that are even remotely okay, but the idea of grasping at someone to fill the void is an idea that resonates with the common people.
Ultimately, “Greta” will stand out as a burnbright in the Spring movie season. It’s a welcome change from the other decorations to the movie screens. “Greta” receives a B-plus rating.