Reviewed by Mike Ferraro
Rodrigo Gudino is a director definitely influenced by slow-burn religious thrillers and this, his first foray into feature-length filmmaking, wears those influences proudly on its sleeves. Even more over, Gudino’s film, lengthily titled The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, the film centers on one single person – Aaron Poole – throughout its entire runtime. Even when someone knocks at the door, we hear someone talking (and creepily no doubt) but never actually see anyone. So is he, and the story itself, strong enough to capture the proper attention?
Leon (Poole) is an antiques dealer who has dealt with some of the world’s most unique and spiritual antiquities. His life soon changes when his estranged mother, Rosalind Leigh (Vanessa Redgrave), dies and he inherits all of her belongings. Upon arrival to her house, he is welcomed with thousands of religious sculptures, artwork, and trinkets. There is a mass of confusion for him when he soon realizes that most, if not all, of the items were antiques he once sold.
When he calls his dealer to find out why this information was never shared with him, he is given the typical businessman answer. The dealer claims he deals with client confidentiality, and in reality, he didn’t really know who was buying them.
There certainly is a large amount of creepy sculptures throughout the house and Gudino provides cinematographer Samy Inayeh an ample amount of time to slowly creep the camera all around the house to expose them. Leon soon learns that there might be something else in the house with him – something demonic and sinister. As night moves forward, so it brings forth ominous sounds and voices. Leon, despite his urge to investigate the house and its contents, he never fully believes anything supernatural that happens.
Despite getting top billing in the credits, the classically talented Vanessa Redgrave provides only a voiceover narration (unless you count her three second on-screen appearance at the end of the film) that reads as if it were a letter to her son. But the details she announces are confusing. She seems to be purposely speaking to her son, but when she describes the loneliness of her funeral (not even her son attended), it seems preposterous to assume that Leon read the letter after her death without questioning that little detail. Did she somehow spiritually write the letter after her death or she speaking to him from beyond the grave through some other method?
Still, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, while providing an interesting enough premise, fails to really deliver the goods. There is nothing shocking about the revelations revealed in the last act and the buildup to that point is a tad too patient to capture attentions – and it’s just under 80 minutes long. The parts that work, however, work pretty well, which goes to show that Gudino has a couple of tricks up his filmmaking sleeve. It’s just that they are too few and far between, that the more moody he attempts to make the film, the more mediocre it becomes.
Commentary – Writer/director Rodrigo Gudino fields questions from Stuart Andrews (Rue Morgue). The filmmaker mostly discusses what the film is about for him, that it is about theme more than anything else. The mother/son relationship here is meant to take center stage to the dramatics (which it does) over the religious overtones.
An Interview with Mercan Dede (11:31) – This brief featurette has the film’s composer discuss his musical background before leading into his influences, and ultimately, the choices he made while scoring the The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh.
Angels, Antiques, and Apparitions (27:00) – This featurette provides a rather thorough look into the making of the film. There are interviews from the director, actor, cinematographer, and other crew, about a range of topics, including the lighting, shooting, performance, and location scouting of the film’s production.
The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow (6:07) – This short film, originally released in 2008 and was co-directed by Gudino and Vincent Marcone, is an atmospheric story about the details contained within a photograph. The end result is a creepy look at the chaotic nature of everything that can happen during that one millisecond of time. Most photos are taken within the blink of an eye, but rarely do we see everything going on in the world within that rectangle of history.