Talk to Me (2023)
Directed by Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou
Starring Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen and Joe Bird
Here at NadaMucho.com, we’re big fans of A24. When this small studio dominated the Oscars last year, we felt like we were part of an exclusive circle of critics consistently impressed by the studio’s output. This year has been another standout for A24, featuring quirky comedies like Showing Up and You Hurt My Feelings, Ari Aster’s ABSOLUTELY BONKERS third film Beau is Afraid, and Celine Song’s acclaimed directorial debut, Past Lives. While all these films received critical acclaim, they haven’t been financial hits. And without titles like Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) or The Whale (2022), it seems the studio might miss the spotlight it held last year in February. But there’s hope: Talk to Me is a low budget hit that will help the A24 fund future Oscar greats.
When I wrote this review in August, Talk to Me was the sixth highest-grossing A24 film. By the time NadaMucho.com gets around to publishing it, I suspect it will climb to fifth place. With a paltry budget of four and a half million dollars, this gritty trauma-horror film from Australia will help finance future standout projects from the studio.
I know little about the Philippou brothers, except that they were touted as “YouTube Sensations” before taking a crack at feature filmmaking. Talk to Me is remarkably smart and sophisticated for a debut feature. The characters are complex, relatable, and interesting. The young actors embody genuine adolescents, rather than seasoned adult actors trying to feign youthfulness. The rules of this horror film are presented in such a way that we feel like we’re discovering the intriguing premise alongside the characters, instead of through tedious exposition or exaggerated backstory. The real tension lies in our partial knowledge: we know something is amiss, but the uncertainty is what’s truly terrifying.
Sophie Wilde portrays Mia, a young woman coping with a recent loss and tentatively rejoining the social circles she once skirted. Her yearning for acceptance leads her down a path of horrifying yet enthralling madness. Visually, the otherworldly sequences are both distinctively stylish and understated. We’ve seen enough renditions of the Duffer Brothers’ “UPSIDEDOWN” from Stranger Things, and thankfully, “Talk to Me” avoids such now-clichéd motifs. Sophie’s character is accompanied by her best friend, Jade, and Jade’s younger brother, Riley. As Jade, Alexandra Jensen perfectly captures the tension of trying to act cool while protecting a younger sibling. Meanwhile, Joe Bird gives a poignant performance as Riley, a younger brother striving for bravado despite being scared as shit. While initially seeming inconsequential, Riley’s character is deeply layered and pivotal. The rest of the cast authentically embodies Australian culture, yet their portrayals resonate universally with today’s youth.
I left the theater shook, much like the way I did with last year’s surprise hit Smile (2022) and Ari Asters’ first two films, Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019). Going into each one, the circumstances attributed greatly to my enjoyment and shookness … I knew next to nothing about all four of these films except that I would hopefully be scared. Kudos to A24 for an excellent marketing program that does not divulge the entire film in its trailers. If you are a fan of any of the aforementioned trauma horror films I strongly recommend Talk to Me and when it comes to A24 you really gotta hand it to them for delivering a film that only Everything Everywhere All At Once, Hereditary, Lady Bird, and Moonlight have bettered at the box office. With two Oscar winners for best picture and cult status for the other two, Talk to Me is in good company with a grade of an A.