Sanctuary Review

I had a hard time deciding what I thought of Sanctuary. A film from independent film company Neon is usually artistically brilliant, with twisted scenarios. Sanctuary, though, seems to be more predictability over artistry. It does have a twisted outlook, but the film is more like a play with a lot of dramatic irony, rather than the dark comedy that it is billed as.

Sanctuary’s two characters are Hal and Rebecca. Hal is played by Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley is Rebecca. It is a dominatrix scenario, with Hal being an extremely wealthy client who arranges the meets with Rebecca. He believes that aside from his relationship with Rebecca his life is a joke and not exciting. His bizarre, sexual escapades with Rebecca is to help him escape his mundane life. However, when Hal decides that he wants to end Rebecca’s services, the film takes an ominous turn. Rebecca makes Hal believe that she will ruin his life by blackmailing or exposing his many dark secrets. All this turmoil Rebecca creates is where Sanctuary goes downhill for Hal, but creates excitement for Rebecca.

The sexual escapade of Sanctuary is where it becomes predictable. Hal may be getting his desires fulfilled, but is there more to why he has these desires? Rebecca’s sexual escapades with Hal is to her advantage, but is it really benefiting her? The performances of Abbott and Qualley just seem to lack the characterizations for a believable trap. Rebecca really doesn’t sell her claim to own Hal by her threats to destroy his whole life based on his choices and experiences with her.

The title of the film Sanctuary comes from the safe word that Hal and Rebecca develop to let the other one know that the escapade is going too far. Ironically, though, no one is “safe” in Sanctuary. Hal and Rebecca have built a relationship that causes both of them to have all kinds of weird and obsessive thinking.

It seemed to me that the tensions between Hal and Rebecca was more about a clash of egos rather sex. There are no romantic ties or connection between Hal and Rebecca in Sanctuary. There is just an array of personal flaws, bizarre settings, and scandalous realizations. The focus of Sanctuary seems to be on the gaslighting between Hal and Rebecca. Rebecca’s way of gaslighting is one that remains quiet, yet effective. Hal on the other hand cries with fear and anxiety to manipulate Rebecca.

In my view Sanctuary is a very poorly written dark comedy. Is “sanctuary” truly a word to ensure safety in this film? Hardly. The misrepresentations of this film takes it in an ambiguous direction. The film lacks ambition or any form of artistic direction. The artistry certainly can’t be found in the the gaudy red lighting that surrounds the apartment of Hal. Sanctuary was just not a very satisfying experience. Two and a half stars for Sanctuary.

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