By Amanda Gilmore
Julia (Maika Monroe) moves to Bucharest, Romania with her husband when he relocates for a new job. With no job of her own, she spends most of her days alone. When news serial attacker The Spider is suspected to be in her area, she becomes increasingly suspicious. She then notices her neighbour watching her from his apartment window and follows her around Bucharest.
Watcher is a slow-burnng Thriller with a great payoff. Writer-Director Chloe Okuno builds constant tension through lighting that creates shadows hinting at a lurking danger. The empty streets of Bucharest are used to haunting peak effect. Offering up an unsafe environment for Julia to exist with a violent attacker on the loose. Okuno mixes these eerie visuals with an unsettling score from Nathan Halpern.
The steady pace of the Script, co-written with Zach Ford, allows for the doubt to creep-in. Julia’s pleas to her boyfriend and police aren’t taken seriously. They hush her up or attempt to rationalize her statements. Ford and Okuno add the extra layer of Julia being thrown into a country and a language she’s unfamiliar with to add to the anxiety. All these things pick away at the audience, making them question if what we’re seeing is just our protagonist’s paranoia.
This type of gaslighting eventually makes Julia question herself. In the careful hands of Monroe, Julia’s nervous demeanour is portrayed with an exactness. Monroe shows Julia’s confusion to stick with her intuition and the self-doubt everyone around her is causing. This highlights a theme in Watcher about society demeaning women’s pleas and labelling them as paranoia. Okuno, Ford and Monroe come together to effectively deliver the message of always trusting your intuition.
Watcher screens virtually at Sundance:
Premiere: Jan. 21 at 11PM EST
Second Screening: Jan. 23 at 10AM EST (available for 24hrs)