'Return to Sender': Film Review

Return to Sender Still - H 2015
RLJE/Image Entertainment

Return to Sender Still - H 2015

A tawdry, unconvincing psychological thriller.

Rosamund Pike stars in this thriller about a woman who builds a relationship with the man who raped her.

Belatedly arriving in theaters as an unfortunate postscript to Rosamund Pike's revelatory performance in Gone Girl, Fouad Mikati's tawdry psychological thriller features the talented actress in a film that bears no small resemblance in theme, if not quality, to the hit movie version of Gillian Flynn's best-seller. Filmed before Pike played her breakout role, the aptly titled Return to Sender will be quickly forgotten.

The beautiful blonde actress once again taps into her dark side with her performance as Miranda, a dedicated nurse who's equally capable of performing an emergency tracheotomy on a choking victim in a diner and baking a Martha Stewart-worthy gourmet birthday cake for a friend. She also dutifully cares for her elderly father (Nick Nolte, in full geezer mode and virtually inaudible) despite their complicated emotional history.

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Reluctantly agreeing to a set-up for a blind date, Miranda is understandably put-off by William (Shiloh Fernandez), the scraggly, shiftless young man who shows up early at her front door. She graciously invites him in nonetheless, only to find herself brutally beaten and raped in her own kitchen.

Physically and emotionally traumatized by the experience, Miranda has great difficulty readjusting into normalcy, her perpetually trembling hands rendering her incapable of baking another cake or even playing the Operation-like game which she's been gifted. She lashes out at the slightest provocation, engaging in a heated shouting match with a hapless young dry cleaning establishment employee. She's also unable to sell her house so that she can move into fancier digs, despite her real estate broker's (Illeana Douglas) less than helpful suggestion that she "plant rose bushes."

In a seeming attempt at gaining closure, she starts corresponding with her now jailed rapist and even begins visiting him in prison. At first acting cool and reserved, she eventually warms up to his pleas for forgiveness and enters into a quasi-flirtation accentuated by wearing skin-tight, summery dresses. When he's unaccountably paroled a short while later, she even invites him to her home where he helps her out with household repairs, much to her father's dismay.

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What might have been an intriguing character portrait of a woman developing perverse feelings for the monster who violated her eventually lapses into unconvincing revenge thriller territory in the final act that most viewers will see coming a mile away. That it works to the extent that it does is a testament to Pike's ability to infuse her characterization with complex emotional layers and shades of menace underneath her icy exterior. She's the best actress with whom Hitchcock never got the chance to work. But then again, the master of suspense would certainly have turned up his nose at this schlocky material.  

Production: Boo Pictures

Cast: Rosamund Pike, Shiloh Fernandez, Nick Nolte, Camryn Manheim, Illeana Douglas, Rumer Willis

Director: Fouad Mikati

Screenwriters: Patricia Beauchamp, Joe Gossett

Producers: Candica Abela-Mikati, Holly Wiersma

Executive producers: Joe Gossett, Logan Levy, JC Khoury

Director of photography: Russell Carpenter

Production designer: Freddy Waff


Editors: Pete Beaudreau, Thom Noble

Costume designers: Kurt and Bart

Composer: Daniel Hart

Casting: Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee

Not rated, 95 min.