Shadow on the Wall Review

Shadow on the Wall is definitely a pretty intense noir film although it doesn’t follow the characters I expected it to. It takes the interesting approach of focusing on the kid and the trauma she gets after a pretty big experience rather than the main character. It’s a different approach but not a bad one although I don’t think it would work to do this too often. Either way as long as you’re ready for more of a slow burn experience then you will do well here.

The movie starts off with David finally getting home after being away for a while at work. His daughter Susan is happy to see him and he’s glad to be back but unfortunately he finds out that his second wife Celia is having an affair with another man. He confronts her about this but she knocks him out with a single swing. Her sister Dell then shows up but is upset at Celia stealing her man so she destroys Celia and runs off. David figures he probably shot Celia when he wakes up and is crushed at court and sentenced to death. Dell feels like she’s pretty safe at first since nobody was in the room except is turns out that Susan may have seen everything. Dell figures she has to murder this little girl and quick but how can she get past Dr. Caroline and the rest of the hospital staff overseeing Susan’s trauma?

Dell is definitely a cold customer and a true villain through and through. She does not hesitate when thinking about murdering Susan which is something you could only do if you are a true psychopath. You definitely do not want to get on Dell’s bad side. It’s clear that there is no line which she will not cross. She will do whatever it takes to get her way. The crazy thing is that she’d probably have been fine if she just left well enough alone and minded her business. Keep in mind that David is to be executed fairly soon and Susan is barely in a state to talk about anything. Even if she suddenly says that she saw Dell, there would need to be some convincing reason to believe her over all the evidence that suggests David did it. I don’t see any plausible way for Dell to lose if she just stayed quiet the whole time.

Of course villains do always tend to be quite nervous and overthink everything so at the same time it’s not too surprising that Dell made this mistake. It’s also something to see her quick descent into madness. Murdering a kid is no small thing, it’s something reserved only for some of the most evil and vicious villains out there. Dell definitely does not come across as sympathetic in the slightest and you’re rooting for her to go down the whole time. She was quite manipulative the whole time too.

David is mostly okay here. He definitely gets emotional about his wife cheating on him but I don’t think he would have ultimately pulled the trigger. He was looking pretty shaken and ominous at the same time but ultimately he would have backed off. It’s annoying to see him getting tricked by Dell but at the same time he has no reason to suspect her or any context so there’s no way he could have known that he was making a mistake.

Celia is portrayed as a pretty bad character from the jump. She certainly isn’t afraid to talk really tough the whole time. Ultimately I was expecting her to finish David off at first but at least she didn’t go that far. It’s hard to feel all that bad for her in the end though, it seems like she had a long history of being a full antagonist and wasn’t planning on changing that anytime soon. So when you put that all into perspective then she would have kept doing more damage in the future too. Possibly even more damage than Dell if she was really cut loose onto the world.

The best character here would have to be Pike. I thought he did a great job of defending David’s interests. Moreover he was the kind of guy who would actually listen to advice and didn’t take anything for granted. He thought Caroline was grasping at straws later on in the film and told her as much but he wasn’t sarcastic or belittling about it. He would calmly try to talk things out each time and that’s what I liked about him. He was a very respectful guy but also a firm one. If he didn’t agree about something then he would say that to your face instead of beating around the bush the whole time. Someone like that is who you really want to have on your side when the chips are down.

Then Dr. Caroline also did great the whole time. Rehabilitation isn’t easy and she keeps going through with it to get Susan better. While I think the sleeping bath is super dangerous all on its own, presumably it’s considered to be safe in the movie verse. If not for sabotage it would have been fine. Caroline trusts her gut instincts a lot which is good since it makes it tougher to really deceive her. Caroline handled herself in a professional manner the whole time and got results.

Now the bulk of the film follows Susan and that’s where things can get a little stretched out. She’s super traumatized over what happened so she’s lost all her emotions and just does everything without energy. It’s definitely a tough situation to be in and you feel bad for her but it doesn’t always make for the most interesting scenes. As I mentioned earlier it does make for a fairly unique perspective but you’re more interested in the thriller aspects and what is going to happen next as opposed to her recovery process. Caroline was clever in how she used the dolls to help Susan communicate though.

Still even if I wasn’t quite as engaged in the Susan scenes I would say that the film held its own the whole time. Even though you know who the murderer is you are focused on how the heroes are ultimately going to catch her. That’s the main objective of the film and so since everything is riding on Susan’s testimony that adds a little more weight to her plot. Then of course you have Dell squirming the whole time as she is waiting for her chance to turn the tables and finish Susan off which is still what puts her in a losing position.

Overall, Shadow on the Wall is a pretty good movie. The dialogue and script are solid as you would expect. The pacing is mainly good although I would have substituted Susan’s scenes for more screen time of David in jail or perhaps a longer court scene to show how the deliberations went. I imagine it was fairly one sided particularly since David didn’t remember what he had done but I like court scenes a lot so stretching it out to have everyone voice what they were thinking would have been nice. Part of why I was surprised to see Susan’s plot take the lead at first is I expected a whole lot of the film would be about David’s lawyer trying to get to the bottom of things but that’s not how it was to be.

Overall 7/10

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