13th July 2018 (UK)
A young man and his three younger siblings, who have kept secret the death of their beloved mother in order to remain together, are plagued by a sinister presence in the sprawling manor in which they live.
Sergio G. Sánchez
George MacKay, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton
Set in 1969, The Secret of Marrowbone (or simply Marrowbone as it’s known in the US) follows 20-year-old Jack and his three younger siblings – Jane, Billy and Sam. The quartet are living in a run-down house, named Marrowbone, that their mother Rose grew up in and returned to until her ill health kept her bedridden. Her final wishes to Jack were to keep her passing quiet until he is 21; old enough to legally look after his brothers and sister without them being split up and put into care.
A few months after her death, the house falls into disrepair, with minimal furniture and overgrown shrubbery clouding its external grandeur. The children are still living in the mansion, but have covered up all the mirrors in fear of a sinister presence which also inhabits their home. Things become even more complicated when Tom, a local lawyer, starts getting suspicious and visits the home to finalize property deeds for the now-deceased Rose. Can the family keep quiet about the many secrets of Marrowbone?
Marrowbone boasts some heavyweight talent both in front and behind the camera, with the likes of promising future stars Charlie Heaton (Jonathan in Netflix’s nostalgia-tinged sci fi show Stranger Things), Mia Goth (A Cure For Wellness), George MacKay (Captain Fantastic, Pride) and Anya-Taylor Joy (Thoroughbreds, The VVitch) all putting in impressive performances.
Director Sergio G. Sanchez is more known for his writing ability than directing, having penned 2012’s disaster drama The Impossible and Spanish chiller The Orphanage (both of which coincidentally directed by Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom‘s J.A. Bayona) but shows confidence in the drivers seat with his full-feature directing debut of Marrowbone.
Undoubtedly more akin to methodically paced and tension-filled The Orphanage than the usual Hollywood jump scare offerings, Marrowbone is a much more subdued affair, with the empty spaces and quiet creaks of every corner of the mansion creating an unsettling atmosphere as opposed to shocks from snarling monsters or demonic faces. There’s a few moments that conjure jolts, but they seem out of place in the bigger picture.
Unfortunately, Marrowbone‘s story is where it really lets itself down. At its core, there’s an old fashioned ghost story to be told here, but it ties itself in so many knots with largely uninteresting subplots and a chemistry lacking love triangle that it begins to lose focus. It doesn’t help matters that events in the film are in full swing as we join them; it’s like turning up to a party an hour after everyone else got there and you’re expected to join in the already established conversations with little to no information as to what they’re talking about.
When the first of the mysteries is finally revealed, it’s done with nonchalance and in such a throwaway manner it’s a wonder as to why it wasn’t unveiled at the beginning of the film, a move which would have greatly benefited towards audience engagement in the film. Before this moment, the way Marrowbone plays out is more irritating than intriguing and the big, titular secret falls rather flat too, with the reasoning behind it all having been used countless times before.
Nonetheless, Marrowbone features some promising new blood in its cast and moments haunting, Gothic beauty. It’s just a shame it doesn’t have a juicy enough story to sink your teeth into.
Moments of Gothic beauty
Strong, promising young cast
Convoluted story with too many subplots
Titular 'secret' isn't particularly original