‘The Eternal Daughter’ Review: Tilda Swinton’s Ghostly Performances Can’t Save a Bloated Script

The Eternal Daughter Movie Review Tilda Swinton Joanna Hogg A24 Film
“The Eternal Daughter”

A secret third film to her critically acclaimed A24 trilogy, Joanna Hogg’s “The Eternal Daughter” stars Tilda Swinton in a dual, mind-bending mother/daughter role that lets her show off her entire range of emotional acting chops. While she shines with the volatility she’s offered in the script, the rest of the film struggles to muster more than moody atmospheres and a lifeless structure that struggles to keep ahold of a viewer’s attention.

It’s unfortunate, too, because of how successful Hogg’s previous films are at mining emotion and sucking an audience member in even with a story structure that lacks a strong central narrative. “The Eternal Daughter” is trying to capitalize off the same strengths as Hogg’s last two movies with its equally ambiguous plot, but the film ventures too far into the mundane for its own good, even to the point where it’s, and I deeply hate having to attach this word to a filmmaker that I deeply admire but, boring.

It has a great sense for gothic atmosphere and the performances are stoic across the board, but a film that barely tops 90 minutes quickly starts to feel like a film journeying over two hours. It struggles to find much momentum in a script that is absent of dialogue around every corner, and the set pieces are few and far between.

As a portrait for mother/daughter relationships and the hold that memories have on us, “The Eternal Daughter is mostly successful. This is in large part because of a performance by Swinton that feels all too natural to her at this point, but the script also offers a few scenes of internal interrogation. It always feels like it’s trying to peel back deeper and deeper layers, but it never fully connected with me to a point of astonishment – I always felt like I was at arm’s length with a film that only works if it gets you to invest in it early on.

The visual palette is quite daunting (in a purposeful way) and the shot selection is clean and precise. It’s a well-made film by a filmmaker with a handful of them under her portfolio at this point, I just wish to source material was strong enough to take advantage of the craft that Joanna Hogg is offering.

The film also serves as a self-reflexive question about making art out of the experiences of others, and whether it is a form of exploitation to portray hardships from those that are close to you. I found this particular aspect of the film interesting relative to the rest of it, but like many of the other themes and ideas presented by “The Eternal Daughter,” this question is only microwaved and never fully baked through.

‘The Eternal Daughter’ Verdict

I truly wanted to like “The Eternal Daughter” for its precise attention to atmosphere and its gothic tone, but the story is stripped back to a fault. There’s a full coarse meal of thematic ideas and questions, but it’s delivered in a lean narrative that doesn’t offer enough reflection points. It certainly fits the typical A24 tag for its idiosyncratic visual style and genre mashing, but it doesn’t deliver as much to meditate on during its runtime and days after.