The second feature screening tonight at Scotiabank Theatre as part of the Toronto After Dark film festival is another new favourite.
Poor Agnes, having its Toronto premiere this eve, is a disturbing drama that haunts and troubles even as its story captivates. Agnes (Lora Burke) is a serial killer, and she is a master at breaking the will of her victims.
Burke turns in a stellar breakout, and gently restrained, performance, walking a fine line of psychopathic indifference and predator.
When Mike (Robert Notman), a private investigator, tracks Agnes down for a missing persons case he is working on, the attraction is instant and its results are long lasting. Realising he could be trouble, Agnes chains and beats him, threatening him with death, dehumanising him (something she perfects by attending Torture Survivor Meetings), and finally breaks his will, making him lover, slave, confidante, and accomplice.
As a strange co-dependent relationship develops between the two, Mike must take care with every word and action, as Agnes could erupt into violence at any moment. And yet, in a terrifying case of Stockholm Syndrome, he just wants to do his best to keep her happy and satisfied, though he refuses to cross the line to homicide.
Events escalate when Agnes takes her predatory nature online, and stalks the dating world, ensnaring Chris (Will Conlon). But perhaps this time she’ll get caught… and perhaps Mike will find his way free to reclaim himself.
Or maybe not.
Poor Agnes is a fascinating watch, that promises great things for Burke, director Ramaswaran and writer James Gordon Ross as themes of relationships, identity, love, sex, and even the nature of humanity are explored.
The film ends up being a punch in the gut, alternately terrifying and heart-wrenching as you urge Mike to make a run for it, but realising that he is so broken that he can’t conceive of an existence without Agnes.
Agnes is thoughtful, character driven, involving and absolutely impossible to take your eyes away from. Toronto After Dark have found themselves another winner, and this alongside Trench 11 serve as brilliant standouts of the festival.
You owe it to yourself to see this one, and revel in Burke’s performance. Grab your tickets, settle in, and let yourself fall into the story. This one is worth the price of admission, and needs to be seen.
Poor Agnes screens tonight at 9:30pm. What will you be watching After Dark?