Watcher movie review of a modest but effective thriller Assignment X

By ABBIE BERNSTEIN / Editor

Published: June 9, 2022 / 3:01 PM

Maika Monroe as Julia in WATCHER by Chloe Okuno | ©2022 IFC Midnight

Evaluation: R
Stars: Maika Monroe, Karl Glusman, Burn Gorman, Madalina Anea
Writer: Chloe Okuno, from the screenplay by Zack Ford
Director: Chloe Okuno
Distributer: IFC Midnight
Release date: June 3, 2022

OBSERVER is a thriller film set and filmed in Bucharest, Romania. Director/screenwriter Chloe Okuno, adapting a screenplay by Zack Ford, makes the most of everything about the city, knowing that most of her audience will find it as novel and mysterious as the protagonist.

This is Julia (Maika Monroe). As a New Yorker, she’s a foreigner in a foreign land here, unfamiliar with the country and trying (with very slow success) to learn the language.

Julia accompanied her marketing manager husband Francis (Karl Glusman) to Romana after accepting a promotion. Francis is American, but his mother is Romanian; he is fluent in the language and knows his way around.

The new apartment has huge windows. The panoramic view, alas, is just from the building across the street. Julia becomes aware that someone seems to be watching her constantly from this building.

Julia’s conscience becomes alarming when it seems that the man (Burn Gorman) followed her first to the cinema and then to the supermarket. Francis and a local policeman are both apt to attribute Julia’s fears to a misunderstanding, boredom turned hysteria, or both. Only new friend Irina (Madalina Anea) takes Julia’s concerns seriously.

Trying to get proof of what her gut is telling her, Julia begins to observe the neighbor. This makes Julia an observer herself. At the same time, Bucharest is terrorized by a serial killer/rapist nicknamed the Spider.

Credit goes to Okuno who, for starters, makes it believable for us that Julia is dating alone, even with this threat. In this, the filmmaker has a powerful partner in Monroe, who quietly provides insight into Julia’s emotions and thought processes. The performer is restrained, but she has an expressive face that speaks volumes.

Gorman also manages to be ambiguous and very unnerving by employing stillness and a rarely raised voice.

Okuno uses space and darkness to illustrate Julia’s isolation. The filmmaker also plants some solid clues and at least one first-rate deception, where what first appears to be a continuity error actually points to character strategy.

OBSERVER is reminiscent of some old-fashioned thrillers, where the atmosphere takes precedence over the story. Indeed, each time we perceive that a reversal of the situation can happen, we are mistaken.

OBSERVER goes exactly where it seems to go, which may make it a little slow for some viewers. However, on second thought, Okuno is true to the concept. In real life, like Julia, many people would have the same set of reactions to the possibility of danger from a barely seen stranger. Disbelief, curiosity, and doubt would all come before fear, and Okuno and Monroe give each their due.

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Article: Movie review: OBSERVER

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