THE TWIN Review - A Mother’s Grief and the Dangers of Bargaining
E.L. King calls The Twin a psychological thriller that will leave you questioning reality for better or worse.
Shudder Original, THE TWIN, directed by Taneli Mustonen and co-written with frequent collaborator Aleksi Hyvärinen is an exploration of unyielding grief, the dangers of bargaining, and the unbearable weight of guilt. The mind-bending psychological thriller stars Teresa Palmer, Steven Cree, and Tristan Ruggeri as a family who relocate to the idyllic Scandinavian countryside in Eastern Finland to escape the emotional aftermath of tragedy. Rachel (Palmer) and Anthony (Cree) Doyle must confront the reality of an unbearable truth as they cope with the death of their son Nathan (Ruggeri) and their surviving twin son Elliot. Thematic spoilers are ahead.
The mind is a robust, influential, and complex organic machine made up of intricate pathways that control our thoughts, memory, emotions, and every process that regulates our bodies. Grief is an innate response to loss. We all grieve differently. Rachel and Anthony are no exception in their reactions to Nathan’s death. Traumatic grief causes the mind to cycle through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, as outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who developed the five stages in her book On Death and Dying (1969).
The mind protects us when the stress of grief on our nervous system overwhelms us. THE TWIN presents a clever and terrifying examination of grief that left me unable to discern reality. It compelled me to question, what happens when the mind becomes locked in a state of bargaining, resulting in a fraught fight against acceptance? While rare, perhaps the most frightening aspect of grief is when it causes psychosis. What occurs when the mind creates a dominant delusion as a coping mechanism to combat traumatic grief symptoms? Mustonen and Hyvärinen explore these questions and the paranoia-inducing anxiety of neurotic bereavement through Rachel.
Palmer delivers a stunning portrayal of a grieving mother driven to hysteria in one of the most horrible experiences a parent can go through. Rachel’s denial manifests in elaborate ways that force the audience to choose what to believe. Her fear is tangible. We can see and understand it, but I could not reconcile fact with fiction as the narrative unfolded. Of all the performances, Palmer’s was the most convincing.
THE TWIN struggles to build tension and suffers from issues with pacing and editing, making it challenging to clarify several moments. It also presents unnecessary characters, like Helen (Barbara Marten), who exist only to offer cliched attempts at misdirecting audiences. The use of jump cuts to transition scenes repeatedly breaks viewer immersion in dream sequences meant to build toward an inevitable plot twist. Due to these transitions and the erratic pacing, information is easy to miss, and jump scares fail to be effective. For a brief moment, I fell asleep, mirroring Rachel at that exact moment in the film, and like her, was startled awake by a whisper in the dark. It’s one of the only moments I felt a thrill while screening the film.
While I found the unveiling of the truth behind the film’s mysteries intriguing and the themes resonated with me, I oppose the story perpetuating the female hysteria phenomena. I had similar feelings about Castille Landon's psychological thriller Fear of Rain (2021), a film that closely resembles this one. Despite my grievances with the narrative, I enjoyed the film’s exploration of grief, mental illness, its dangers, and the rare but horrific symptoms it can produce. You'll probably enjoy the movie if you’re interested in a mind-bending experience with a somewhat exasperating perspective on female hysteria. The final scene is one I rather liked, and overall, the film has ambitious ideas, but they are poorly executed.
THE TWIN releases theatrically and premieres on Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thrillers, and the supernatural today.