Fresh off the heels of her father’s passing and debilitating breakup, Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) deems it appropriate to retreat to best friend Virginia’s (Katherine Waterston) lakeside abode for rehabilitative purposes. Remaining noticeably shaken upon parting from these prominent masculine figures, Catherine’s repressed feelings of resentment and a repeat uninvited guest threaten to unhinge her entirely. With bitter exchanges between her and Virginia yielding the opposite of diminishing returns, only time will tell when Catherine’s psyche shatters completely.
Last year’s Listen Up Philip unquestionably solidified Alex Ross Perry as a talent that unknowingly panders to nearly every nook of my cinematic tastes. Without getting into detail, the unveiling of Queen of Earth as a psychological thriller set against something comparably character-driven was an exciting initial tidbit. In admirably exploiting Perry’s penchant for wry wit and incisiveness, the finished product is a near perfect cross between the familiarly slow-burning and wildly subversive as an impeccable, aptly eerie aesthetic amplifies Catherine’s compelling downward spiral.
From the get-go, Moss’ general post-tragedy disposition remains effortless in its conveyance of grief and uncertainty. She exudes a manic, frequently uncomfortable energy telling of distress in a way that comes naturally to her, of which is appropriate and speaks volumes about the quality of her performance here. While not entirely likable, it’s hard to root against Catherine as a character given the corresponding intensity with which she’s portrayed as well as afflicted and unable to pry herself free from this psychological bear trap. She irrevocably stands in her own way, and frankly, Virginia’s sustained inability to console her best friend packs on the dread in a manner atypical of contemporary genre fare.
Whether or not you sympathize with Catherine’s plight, her disconcerting increase in mood swings yield some agreeably chilling results, the lot of which peaks with an excellent latter-act monologue that rivals some of the best scenes in any film I’ve seen this year. Queen of Earth thrives thanks to Perry’s corresponding penchant for dialogue, the unconventional subjects that speak it and steadfastness of scope, all of which are bolstered by a simplicity of premise that could yield literally any possible outcome. It thrives on atmosphere and uniqueness of concept, and I for one applaud Perry’s deft adherence to his obvious strengths as a filmmaker that’s intrinsically unable to conform to rote industry standards.