‘Hatching’ Never Cracks Its Horror-Drama Blend: Review

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hatching three stars

Hatching is an ambitious attempt at a body-horror and family drama concoction that asks questions about the price of perfection. When the daughter of a seemingly perfect Finnish family discovers an egg in the woods, she will learn that coming-of-age is going to be a little more difficult than she might have thought. 

★★★✰✰

The opening shot of Hatching is arguably the most effective of the entire movie. As daughter Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is doing her gymnastics practice, director Hanna Bergholm shows us her protruding spine as she arches her back. It might sound simple, yet it demonstrates perfectly what Hatching is trying to achieve. The shot captures the explicitly unsettling horror of the moment, a girl pushing her body to the limits, but manages to contain it within the context of Tinja’s unhealthy relationship to gymnastics. Hatching works best when it encases its horror within the shell of Tinja’s family life.

The film centres on one Finnish family. Tinja is a young gymnast whose life is filmed by her Mother (Sophia Heikkilä), for her blog. When Tinja hears the sound of a bird in the woods and discovers an egg next to it, she takes it back to her room and watches it grow. Once it hatches, Tinja cares for it, but it soon gains a mind of its own. 

Hatching is attempting to marry the body-horror genre with a family drama. As a result, it seeks to make its more fantastical horror elements feel grounded in a homely setting. Hatching has a lot on its mind. However, the clashing horror and drama does not combine effectively enough to see out these ideas to their full potential. 

This is not to say that this completely condemns Hatching. The film gives us an enjoyably uncomfortable dynamic between its two main characters. This feeling of unease is brought to life by two strong performances from Solalinna and Heikkilä. Hatching gives Solalinna a weighty character arc that leaves her torn between her responsibilities for the egg and for her Mother. Solalinna brings Tinja to life with a restraint that shows her childlike naivety whilst becoming more disillusioned with the Mother that suffocates her. A balancing act like this would not work without a believably parental figure, and Bergholm finds one in Heikkilä. She employs the same restraint as Solalinna, but has to deliver her arc in the opposite way. As Tinja becomes more adult, Mother becomes more childish as she reveals that her perfect life is a mere façade.  

The editing and set design are further highlights that benefit Hatching. The editing effectively cuts back between the horror and Tinja on the high bar in her gymnastics training. This is another example of Hatching melding horror and drama to a spine-chilling level, all supported by suitably punchy sound design. It feels forceful and elicits a genuinely chilling reaction, and manages to create horror in the everyday of Tinja’s life. The set design also ties this everyday horror together. Tinja’s house feels creepy with its lovely wallpaper; Mother’s bed is encased in pretty white veil. Much like the editing it marries the implicit personalities of the family whilst upping the sense of uncanny that feels too idyllic to be believed. 

The Verdict:

Hatching is a film that should be praised for the attention drawn to how some prioritise perfection over reality. Mother is so focused on Tinja’s success she fails to see her daughter is struggling under the pressure of perfection. Hatching’s family dynamics are deftly realised and manage to generate sympathy for both Tinja and Mother. It can be recommended as a unique taste of Finnish cinematic sensibilities, but ultimately feels like a film of two halves that never quite make a whole. The horror elements fail to gel as well as they should, leaving Hatching an engaging drama with moments of horror rather than a wholly cohesive genre blend.

Words by James Evenden

Hatching is in cinemas now.


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