A screenwriter struggling with writer's block travels to a remote inn with her elderly mother in The Eternal Daughter. Julie Hart (Tilda Swinton) travels with her elderly mother, Rosalind (also Swinton), to an isolated manor that was once their family home but is now operating as an inn. Accompanied only by the Receptionist (Carly-Sophia Davies) and groundskeeper Bill (Joseph Mydell), Julie hopes to find inspiration for a new screenplay about her relationship with her mother. However, Julie instead finds herself haunted by the memories of the past.
The Eternal Daughter Synopsis
The Eternal Daughter is a mix of a ghost story and mother-daughter drama written and directed by Joanna Hogg (The Souvenir I & II). The film is notable for how the bulk of the plot involves Tilda Swinton acting against herself in the dual role of protagonist Julie Hart and her elderly mother Rosalind. Julie hopes to write a film about Rosalind's life, often asking her questions about her memories of the manor. While Rosalind frequently remains in her room with her dog Louis, Julie finds her stay disrupted by strange sounds at night and a terrible case of writer's block. This leads to a fateful reveal at a special dinner for Rosalind's birthday.
My Thoughts on The Eternal Daughter
While The Eternal Daughter is successful at generating a ghost story atmosphere, it is hard to view the dual performance of Tilda Swinton as anything other than a gimmick. The film only has two other supporting characters, the unnamed disagreeable Receptionist and Bill the groundskeeper, who helps out Julie from time to time. As such, the bulk of The Eternal Daughter is spent having Tilda Swinton act herself. The film doesn't even try to do this dual performance interestingly, as I do not believe any shots have Julie and Rosalind appearing together.
Since I enjoy a good ghost story, I wish that The Eternal Daughter focused more on that aspect, which in this case is limited to noises at night, a door opening by itself, and an apparent apparition seen through a window. Instead, Joanna Hogg keeps it ambiguous whether there is any ghostly activity at all, instead building to a big, if not somewhat unearned, aha moment towards the end of the film. While it might be an accomplishment for Tilda Swinton to simultaneously play two different characters, The Eternal Daughter offers so much promise that it fails to deliver.