Release Date: February 1, 2019
Director: Mitzi Peirone
MPAA Rating: NR
Run Time: 82 Minutes
Bolstered by its kinetic cinematography and stellar production design, Mitzi Peirone’s surreal nightmare Braid is a crazy fever dream of deranged games and broken realities. A highlight of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Braid is an ambitious film that challenges its audience and leaves them with an experience that, for better or worse, they won’t forget anytime soon.
Tilda and Petula (Sarah Hay and Imogen Waterhouse) are two drug dealers about to make a huge score when, suddenly, their ramshackle apartment is raided by the cops. Leaving the drugs behind and now in debt to a dangerous drug dealer, the only option they see is to attempt to rob their rich childhood friend, who lives in a sprawling, yet decaying, estate. Their only problem is that their “friend,” Daphne (Madeline Brewer), is severely mentally deranged and forces anyone who enters her home to play a wicked game of doctor.
Tilda and Petula play along for a while, but as things become increasingly violent and hallucinatory – thanks to the drugs they ingested – the two women become weary of their situation and realize that obtaining the money may be the least of their concerns.
Packed with twists, turns and plenty of “oh my” moments, Braid is a delightfully twisted tale of friendship, betrayal and violent delusions. We can never really trust that what we’re seeing is real, and before long, Tilda and Petula’s paranoia bleeds into our consciousness, causing the audience to second guess everything they’re seeing.
Todd Banhazl’s excellent cinematography harkins back to early Sam Raimi films, with the camera constantly sweeping, zooming and feeding into the trippy vibe brought on within the early minutes of the feature. This is only enhanced by the fantastic production design by Annie Simeone, who wonderfully crafted the fairytale-like estate and its sprawling corridors and grounds.
Brewer has played an unstable individual before; many may know her as Janine from The Handmaid’s Tale. She clearly has a knack for it, portraying Daphne as a sadistic adult with the mind of a sadistic child. Past trauma has caused her to completely break away from reality – living alone and isolated in her late grandmother’s home, incessantly washing dishes, and making brightly colored desserts while waiting for her two friends to come home to her.
In their game, Tilda has the unfortunate role of playing Daphne’s daughter, with Petula playing the doctor who is tasked with carrying out a torturous exam on her patient. It’s a disturbing film to be sure, but it never goes too far over the edge to become gratuitous. With some big reveals and twists in the finale, it’s possible that Braid will lose some people, but I thought the twists fit nicely in the bizarre ride we were on, where there were no preconceived notions that this would end in any sort of sane conclusion. It’s not a film for everyone; some will certainly find it off-putting, but the great visuals and darkly comedic, and absolutely batshit, plot make this an easy recommendation from me.