Will and Eden were once a loving couple. After a tragedy took their son, Eden disappeared. Two years later, out of the blue, she returns with a new husband... and as a different person, eerily changed and eager to reunite with her ex and those she left behind. Over the course of a dinner party in the house that was once his, the haunted Will is gripped by mounting evidence that Eden and her new friends have a mysterious and terrifying agenda. But can we trust Will's hold on reality? Or will he be the unwitting catalyst of the doom he senses?
I was intrigued by The Invitation due to the (seriously) glass of red wine on the poster. It looked at once mature and alluring but also incredibly dark. I convinced my brother to watch it with me one night and this is our story.
The Invitation sets itself up as a dark tale from the opening scene. A car ride ends in disaster and our hero, while going to his ex- wife's home for a dinner party, has to put an animal out of its misery. Will is unreadable, clearly suffering some form of PTSD. His girlfriend is supportive but it's obvious she's kept outside of his thought processes.
When they arrive at the dinner party, it's hard to believe they know any of the guests. Actually, they've all been friends for years but, as anyone who's ever gone to a dinner part would know, it can be hard to be comfortable when there is a giant, dead elephant in the room. Everyone is at once eerily cheery but also naturally superficial. Is it Will's attitude that's causing conversation to stop dead every time people are reminded of his presence?
Eden enters and you realise she's struggling just as much as Will. Eden is Will's ex, newly remarried and eager to show off the lifestyle that has brought her peace. It's revealed that their son died in an accident and that the grief and blame tore the couple apart. The difference between Eden and Will is, she's trying (not very well, mind you) to get over it.
And so there you have it. A middle-class dinner party that is about grief and madness and red wine. The guests are trying hard to forget the ugliness of the tragedy that rendered all their lives and Will is doing his damndest to drag the corpse into the light for everyone to gape at. Who's really crazy here? Is it the middle-class manners that mean avoiding harsh topics and not allowing your friends the chance to really grieve? Is it the grieving father who wants to find horror in everything just to cope? Or is it the grieving mother who has turned to a specific religion to help her understand life and death?
As the tension mounts and conversation topics become darker and harder to avoid, Will's becomes increasingly paranoid. Both he and Eden are looking for answers to their son's death and perhaps they could be found if they weren't too busy with one trying to blame the other and one doing all they can to forget.
The director does a stellar job in maintaining a mundane and banal tone to the first half of the film. These people are dull but their situation has forced them to be. As the evening continues, though, the sense of screws turning, pennies dropping and clothes shedding becomes palpable. People are not who they seem and it's difficult to tell who is being honest with their intentions and who isn't just plain crazy.
The movie builds to a dazzling final act that is satisfyingly violent. Not only that but it offers a devastating look at grief and how easily those grieving can be manipulated.
So when we started watching, my brother was complaining about the banality of the conversations. The lack of anything compelling. As the story continued, he began to quieten down. When it finished, he told me, two days later, that he couldn't stop thinking about it. Such was the impact that a story steeped in humanity gone awry had had on him. And myself, for that matter. I'd recommend it. EVeryone is talking about Get Out right now but The Invitation was there first. Go on, accept the invitation.
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