Recently Added To Netflix Strange But True
Written By Matthew Sadowski
Strange But True
Directed by: Rowan Athale
Starring: Margaret Qualley, Nick Robinson, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Brian Cox
At the very beginning of Strange But True, we are given something to ponder via a soft-spoken voiceover: “Does God exist? If so, why do bad things happen? If we knew the answers, would we be less afraid, or more?” Strange begins promisingly enough, presenting itself generally as a straight thriller, but never letting the audience forget a possible supernatural element. Sadly, the movie will end up being more interested in giving us tricks we’ve seen before rather than enlightening us.
The aforementioned narrator is Melissa (Margaret Qualley), a pregnant young woman who shows up at the door of Phillip (Nick Robinson), the brother of her 5 years deceased boyfriend Ronnie (Connor Jessup). Margaret is adamant that Ronnie is the father, since he is the only person she has ever “been with.” Phillip, a skeptic, is doubtful yet moved by her explanation, while his mother Charlene (Amy Ryan) is furious and suspects that her ex-husband Richard (Greg Kinnear) is somehow responsible.
The movie leans towards three explanations for Melissa’s pregnancy: 1) Richard, a doctor, performed an artificial insemination with Ronnie’s sperm immediately after he died, 2) Richard is the real father, or 3) Melissa is telling the truth and really is blessed with a miracle. The movie’s shadowy cinematography, while conventional, echoes familial thrillers like Hereditary and adds to the suspense as we try to guess which possibility is the correct one.
Robinson’s Phillip does some soul-searching with Melissa’s psychic (Janaya Stephens), who simultaneously soothes his nerves while also implying that this movie may turn into something like a prequel to The Omen (note the carefully placed Virgin Mary and Holy Family statuettes just past Phillip’s shoulders). Greg Kinnear, in his ever-reliable Movie Dad persona, gives pathos to the more conventional scenes of ex-spouse arguments.
However, after 3/4ths of the story building towards these suggested solutions, the movie suddenly answers everything in perhaps the easiest possible way. It is certainly far less compelling than anything most viewers had probably begun to imagine. The film closes on a forced All’s Well That Ends Well scene, with the characters now reunited as a family around Melissa and her new baby. The movie does not earn a happy ending because, if anything, as the truth of what happened dawns on the family, it will only create more trauma and less trust in their lives. Sad, but true.
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