Separation Doesn't Leave a Good Impression
Although Separation does have some interesting imagery, it doesn’t seem to know what exactly to do with the creepy characters it involves. Perhaps it’s because instead of a horror movie, audiences were watching a lackluster drama that wedged in horror elements. What doesn’t help are the unlikable characters who utter flat dialogue that barely moves the story along.
Separation tells the story of a man in the middle of a custody battle with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Right away, audiences are introduced to this insufferable couple who would rather focus on arguing about their daughter than actually taking care of their daughter.
Rupert Friend plays the protagonist, Jeff Vahn. He immediately doesn’t leave a good impression as an artist who believes being a presence in his daughter’s life is enough to be a good parent. His ex, Maggie, is no better as Mamie Gummer plays her as a shrewish woman who’d rather work than be a mom.
Both of these are outdated character tropes that do not get better as the film progresses. Friend, in particular, gives a rather dull performance with Jeff’s only redeemable quality being his relationship with daughter Jenny. Jeff does manage to obtain a job as a comic book artist, but it isn’t enough to keep him from being one-dimensional.
Brian Cox as Maggie’s father is the only one who knows how to act naturally. Even though he is an antagonistic character with how he attempts to win full custody of his granddaughter, he is the only person that is tolerable in this movie, thanks to his realistic approach to the subpar script.
Violet McGraw also does well as Jenny. The young actress has already been making a good name for herself in the genre thanks to her contributions in Mike Flanagan projects. Because of this, she did well in playing an innocent girl in an unfortunate situation she has no right to be a part of.
It’s when a sudden event involving Gummer’s character that the “scares” start to come. As mentioned, the monsters are scary enough to catch viewers off guard, but have more use in a Tim Burton or Henry Selick film due to their pointless appearances having them come off as kooky and playful than fearful.
For example, there was a ghoulish being that acted as an otherworldly contortionist as it crawled everywhere. It freaked out anyone who saw it, but was still relatively harmless. So much so, that the end credit scene where it returns held no relevance. It may be on its way to pounce on a sleeping Jenny, but why exactly?
A twist at the end that supposedly gives answers to an important plot line also felt forced in, last minute. Why exactly did it matter? It certainly didn’t make the story any better.
Overall, Separation was a movie containing formulaic storytelling. The chills and thrills were nothing more than distractions for the lifeless film. They still didn’t do much to cover up the actors’ awkward performances that made them appear as though they were having an uncomfortable time.
Although the disturbing imagery makes for good scares for a few, they’re still poorly executed and can have audiences grow bored in an instant.
Separation (2021) Official Trailer