If, like virtually every person with a Netflix account, you were joyfully thrilled and utterly creeped out by the series ‘You’, you’ll be enticed by the chilling and twisted tale of Greta. It follows a sweet and naïve girl who has recently moved to New York, Frances played by Chloë Grace Moretz, finding a handbag on the subway and bestowing upon herself the girl next door quest of returning it to its owner, Greta, played by the haunting Isabelle Huppert. The perfect set up to drive home all the times your parents have told you not to talk to strangers.
Greta appears to be an endearing, older French widow struggling with the loneliness of the big city after her daughter moved away for study when Frances first knocks on her door, and despite the “why are you hanging out with an old person” comments from her best friend, things don’t seem all that sinister in the beginning. As the film progresses to Frances helping Greta pick her new dog, to cooking platonic but quite intimately staged dinners, you learn that Frances is struggling with the space left by her recently deceased mother, a space she is longing to fill and one, it turns out, that Greta is happy if not unstably desperate, to fill.
The first half of the film sets a slow pace, painting the scene for perhaps a charming ‘alternate mother daughter film’ rather than a thriller, but before long sees an unravelling of a carefully built and truly psychotic narrative and the true nature of Greta, the person and the film, is revealed. Once Frances is alluded to the truth behind the lost handbag, she does her very best to pull herself from Greta’s firm clutches and that’s when the trouble, drugging and nightmare inducing kidnapping begins. Mix this with an absent father, a best friend that just honestly does far too much yoga, and a PI that quite frankly, sucked at his job, you just need Frances to be okay.
Greta does offer a nice change from the standard stalker / thriller film, having a demure and seemingly victim herself antagonist rather than the disgruntled ex-partner or awkward wirey book shop owner and sure, it does deliver some twists that catch the audience unexpectedly albeit few and far in between. The majority follow a standardised format that only almost hit the spot. Perhaps the biggest plot twist of the whole film, is that believing that you can change your life simply by shooting asparagus juice up your colon (the yoga friend) somehow sounds more rational than a woman alluring young naïve girls into giving her attention with designer handbags. But who knows, maybe it is!
The film is carried on the incredibly committed shoulders of both lead actresses. Huppert delivers her performance with the same level of conviction that earned her an Oscar nomination for her role in Elle and Moretz shows the naïve charm and warmth she has become widely known for. Director, Neil Jordan, can usually be counted on for nail biting and shocking moments but somehow among the attempts at subtle humour glittered through the script he wrote alongside Ray Wright, the film falls into being just a bit campy, and never quite makes its way out. Like Greta says in response to Frances in one of the truly riveting restaurant scenes, “Like you, it promises a lot and then disappoints.”
If you’re wanting a ‘hands to the mouth, gasp every five minutes, almost wet yourself from shock’ film, Greta is just not it. It does however, along with a slight fear of ever doing a nice deed again, amuse it’s audience and thrill you just enough to keep you invested until the very claustrophobic end.
2.8 stars out of 5
Reviewed by Sarah Burley