A Banquet – TIFF21


A Banquet – TIFF21

Widowed mother Holly is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newfound faith Betsey refuses to eat, but loses no weight. In an agonising dilemma torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs.

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A woman becomes concerned after her oldest daughter suddenly stops eating in A Banquet. Holly () is a woman who lives along with her two teenage daughters Betsy () and Isabelle (). After encountering a blood-red moon while at a party, Betsy suddenly loses her desire to eat and comes to believe that she is meant for some higher purpose. Despite Betsy remaining in relatively good health, Holly becomes increasingly concerned about her daughter's well-being and even seeks the help of her stern mother June ().

A Banquet is the feature debut for director Ruth Paxton, from a script by Justin Bull. The film is a cosmic horror story starring Sienna Guillory (Love, Actually) and Jessica Alexander (Glasshouse) as a mother and daughter, whose relationship changes after the latter suddenly stops eating. Holly ends up trying for months to cure Betsy of her affliction, though it soon might turn out that it is Holly who needs help from Betsy.

On the surface, A Banquet is a story about a teenage woman, who is unsure about her direction in life, who seemingly develops an eating disorder. However, as Betsy's behaviour changes over time, including long periods of catatonia, the film develops into an almost Lovecraftian cosmic horror tale. The film features many close-ups of Holly cooking, as well as a very nightmarish eating sequence, that is accompanied by an absolutely grotesque sound design that is sure to make anyone lose their appetite. While ultimately the plot is up to interpretation, A Banquet is still a quite solid female-driven horror tale.

A Banquet is screening as part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.