The power of great performance. It can make a movie. A great performance can make bad movies good and good movies great. Audiences who see a powerful performance, get invested in the character in ways they had no idea they would. They’ll root for the bad guy. They’ll fear for the hero. Some may even hold their breath when a character is in a tense situation. It’s the kind of performance you hope for every time you sit down to watch a movie. That’s exactly the performance you’ll see from Lora Burke if you catch Poor Agnes tonight at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Directed by Navin Ramaswaran, Poor Agnes follows a young woman who has a penchant for murder. She kills without remorse and does so effectively as she believes she’s “hurting the right people.” This all changes as she decides to switch up her routine and start a very odd relationship with her next victim. She takes Mike, a private investigator who showed up at her door, captive and tortures him both mentally and physically. This creates an odd dependency that Mike cannot break away from.
Dark themes are explored throughout Poor Agnes. The breaking of a person’s will is one. Mike (played by Robert Notman) is beaten and manipulated into a submissive acceptance as the plaything/companion for Agnes to do with as she pleases. Far more interesting is the presentation of a sociopathic killer in Agnes. We’re introduced to Agnes after she’s already become a full fledged murderer. There’s no discovery period. We get to see her at her technical best. She’s got her routine down and feels fully justified in her actions. Agnes believes that she’s only killing bad people that take away from the world. In her mind, she is the hero of the story. Lora Burke’s performance makes that feel like a true statement.
The execution of this film lives and breaths by Lora’s abilities. The audience must get invested in Agnes or there is no movie. This is a difficult job as there are few redeeming qualities about the character, if any. But through a conviction that’s present the first time the viewer hears Lora speak, we want to see what happens to Agnes. A part of us wants to see her get away with everything. Agnes is a frightening individual that obviously needs help. Burke’s charisma shines through that to create a monster we can root for. She’s unapologetic and that makes it so easy to delight in her evil acts, even if is with a hint of guilt.
The performance transcends the film, making it more enticing that it has a right to be. It’s amazing to see the way Agnes justifies all her actions and Lora presents the character so well, at times you almost find yourself agreeing with her.
This film is like a gut punch and Lora Burke delivers the heavy blow in the main role. If that sounds like the fun night at the cinema you’re looking for, be sure to check out Poor Agnes, playing tonight at Toronto After Dark at 9:30PM. Tickets are available at the Cineplex Website.
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