Taken from the true account of the Butterbox babies dating from pre -1950's Nova Scotia. Native son Michael Melski builds out from the source event to create a narrative about a 42-year-old expectant first time mother Rae (Suzanne Clement) and her husband Liam (Allan Hawco) who arrive at a newly opened small town Inn to celebrate Rae's birthday. Rae was a crime reported but the violent events and imagery of the job affected her psyche forcing her to step away from the profession. Her Liam husband set up the weekend to help his expectant wife clear her mind as part of her recovery.
The pair meet their proprietor Monica (Shelly Thompson) the daughter of the original owner Rose. It turns out the inn has just reopened so they will be the only guest during their weekend stay. Melski titles the chapters by day. On the Friday arrival, Rae senses that there is something not right with the place. She has flashes of distressed mothers, babies crying and blood smeared on doors. She goes for a walk coming upon a barbed wire fence with warnings that seem to try too hard to keep people away from a seemingly benign wooded area. Meanwhile struggling jingle writer and self-described hack Liam finds musical inspiration in an upper-level suite in the Inn where a mysterious device indicates that there is another presence in the room.
Writer-director Melski's narrative is full of ebbs and flows embedded in a complex challenging plot that pays off for the attentive viewer. Everyone featured has a connection to the house. Rae feels connected as she senses that the house like hers left is suffering from PSTD from all of the horrors its scene in the past. Melski underpins the piece with a fitting score inspired by his favourite genre films from The Shining to The Changeling.
Canadian award-winning actress Suzanne Clement leads the cast as Rae. She's compelled to dig into the Inn's past even though it could upset her delicate mental state, effect her marriage as her husband is running out of patience plus if her suspicions are correct could be dangerous to her self and unborn child. Shelly Thompson disappears into the role of Monica. Her devotion to her mother who sent her away for most of her life is unusual. She's quick to gain leverage on Liam shielding him from a past dalliance and allowing him to use of a space where he can finally grow as a musician. Look for veteran Canadian actor Geza Kovacs as Talbot. He is a keeper of the Inn's secrets that has a soft spot for Rae.
The Child Remains title alone is a clever source of clues as to where this production is headed. The four main actors handle the material well as each character shifts dramatically from where they start at the outset of the film. The story is proof that the actions of people in real life outstrip any imagined thought of fiction. It's a story from an era that has hopefully gone by but with the growing religious zealousness today bad acts could be excused if you present as a good religious person.
*** Out of 4.
The Child Remains | Michael Melski | Canada | 2017 | 112 Minutes.
Tags: Butterbox Babies, Adoption, PSTD, Unwed Mothers, Faith, Prudence, Country Inn, Elixir, Ghosts Box, Gods Will.