Even though everyone has a different relationship with their parents, we are all inexplicably linked to them, if just through genetics...
...Through various degrees, our parents live on through us, in physicality and/or personality. Since antiquity, we’ve understood that a parent’s actions and choices have consequences that impact every future generation. Though not always thought of in such a way, we share a profound fear that we will suffer for the sins of our fathers, that in the end the next generations will have to deal with the mistakes of their forebearers.
This fear can take greater shape when those who raised us have passed and leave the remainder of their lives to us. But what do we do when the fear that we will inevitably be responsible for dealing with our parents’ mistakes becomes a reality? Even worse, what if those mistakes had been kept secret for decades?
That’s the situation that Lauren Monroe, played by Lily Collins, is forced to deal with in Inheritance, written by Matthew Kennedy and directed by Vaughn Stein. Lauren, the daughter of prominent multimillionaire Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton), comes face to face with her father’s secrets after his unexpected death. Lauren is left with a measly inheritance in comparison to her brother (Chace Crawford) and mother (Connie Nielsen), but that’s not all that her father’s will bestows upon her. He also leaves her a video on a flash drive with almost no details about a secret he’s hidden in the woods, a secret that it’s now her duty to keep to her grave. On her family’s property, Lauren finds an underground bunker, where her father’s been keeping Morgan Warner (Simon Pegg) hostage for 30 years. As Lauren hunts for answers to why her dad kept Morgan locked up, the revelations threaten to destroy her family’s legacy and tear them apart.
There’s a lot to like about Inheritance, but it’s the mood and atmosphere of the movie that stands out to me. Lauren is expectedly overwhelmed, trying to deal with the death of her father, her newly discovered secret, and the pressures of her life as a high-profile lawyer; that feeling of anxiety and pressure seeps into the rest of the film. The lighting, camerawork, sound, and editing work together to create a palpable tension. Especially exceptional are the couple of scenes that make use of quick cuts and overlapping layers of sound to show the struggle that Lauren is dealing with psychologically and relay that stress onto the viewer.
While the premise differs, it’s easy to see how Inheritance has been influenced by films like Silence of the Lambs; the two share a similar core: a woman hoping to find answers must question a man that she can’t entirely trust who’s been locked away for years. Pegg channels his own version of Hannibal Lecter in Morgan, and he does so in a way that portrays the character as both playful and dangerous. It’s nice to see this dark side of Simon Pegg, and this is just another title that showcases the wide range of his skills.
Despite Pegg’s convincing performance, the real star is Lily Collins, who brings a realistic intensity to Lauren’s struggle in deciding whether to do what’s right or do what’s best for her family. Collins manages to show Lauren’s anger and anxieties real weight, adding to the tense atmosphere. While there are moments where Collins responses seem overly dramatic, they’re outweighed by her outstanding performance throughout the rest.
Where Inheritance suffers the most is its script. With a runtime of 111 minutes, it feels about 15 minutes too long. Part of this may lie in the number of truths about her father that Morgan reveals to Lauren. While they all work to show that Lauren doesn’t truly know her dad, there are so many that they start to lose the impact that these truth bombs should have. Each truth that is revealed and confirmed stretches the time until the movie reaches its final climax, long after we’ve come to terms with the truth about the Monroes. Lauren also has to deal with a number of minor life issues outside of her conversations with Morgan in the bunker, most of which are meant to build character, but could have been cut as they only serve to slow down the film and dissipate the tension it’s built to those points.
There’s a lot to unpack in Inheritance, things like the fear that we’ll be left to deal with our parents’ mistakes, the reality that we can never really know anyone else, the dark side of the psyche, and the weight of the choice to help our families at the cost of our integrity. Stein’s Inheritance is a powerful take on the things we leave behind and how we deal with the same.
Inheritance becomes available on Digital/VOD on May 22nd from Vertical Entertainment.
By Tim Beirne