Five years after the tragic death of her boyfriend, a young woman turns to her boyfriend’s family for help when she becomes pregnant, believing it’s her boyfriend’s child. As the family struggles with this news, more details about the family and community come out of the shadows in a tense thriller that builds to its conclusion.
The opening monologue, narrated by the now-pregnant Melissa (Margaret Qualley), opens with this deep, metaphysical foray: “Is there a world beyond this one? Do we go there when we die? Does God exist? If so, why do bad things happen?” Through Melissa’s journey to her dead boyfriend’s family, to her consultation with a fortune-teller, to her explanation of the love she shared, the audience follows Melissa, wrestling with a question of “immaculate conception”: how could Melissa be pregnant five years after her boyfriend’s death if she never slept with another man?
John Searless’ novel via screenwriter Eric Garcia (Repo Men, Matchstick Men gives a noir vibe to a story with some theological questions about what happens when we die, while also grounding them in the grimy world of Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train. While this particular outing tends to stroke the tension with intent and possibility rather than gross-out violence or jump scares, the intensity is palpable as Melissa grows closer to her due date.
The cast of Amy Ryan, Blythe Danner, Greg Kinnear, and Bryan Cox positions up-and-comers Qualley and Nick Robinson (as the dead teen’s older brother) to shine. Questions arise about responsibility, about cause and effect, and about science and the supernatural in a way that still linger after some of those questions have been answered in a shocking twist. For the full-on thriller fan hoping for something steeped in mood rather than in gory bloodletting, Strange But True delivers in terrific fashion, even if Melissa’s initial queries never get answered.
The Dove Take:
Strange But True sets out to be a metaphysical thriller that ultimately shows the evil of the human heart. Because of its subject matter, more than what’s actually shown on screen, it merits 18+ Dove Approval.