DVD/Blu Ray

The Last Thing Mary Saw (15) Home Ents Review

Dir. Edoardo Vitaletti, US, 2021, 85 mins

Cast: Stefanie Scott, Isabelle Fuhrman, Rory Culkin, Judith Roberts

Review by Colin Dibben

An atmospheric, quiet and moody supernatural debut from writer-director Edoardo Vitaletti, who is brilliantly served by his production design team and cinematographer.

Mary (Scott) is growing up in a repressively religious family in 1840s New York State. She finds physical love in the arms of maid Eleanor (Fuhrman, so memorable in the Orphan films); something so forbidden that the two young women are left to kneel on rice grains overnight when caught.

The household appears to be a classic patriarchy but the trousers are really worn by the daunting grandmother (Roberts). It is her ambiguous role – is she a very strict Christian or engaged in a ‘false flag’ manoeuvre? – that drags the entire family to a horrific outcome.

Given the setting, the performances are all understandably reined in. They are also a bit flat and forgettable, with the exception of the creaky, lowering grandma. Roberts’ CV covers some great stuff: she is in Orange is the New Back and You Were Never Really Here but also cult 70s films like Eraserhead and Minnie and Moskowitz.

The script is basic but at least it avoids both contorted imaginings of period language and embarrassing neologism.

What makes the film worth watching is the cinematography by David Kruta and the production design by Charlie Chaspooley Robinson and Tiffany Stoker. The film deploys two colour /light schemes which really cast a spell over the viewer.

One is warm, intimate, candle-lit, painterly light effects reminiscent of old master paintings by Shalcken and Dou. The other is cold blue diffused light that owes something (if not the colour or the diffusion!) to classic Scandinavian period cinema like Dreyer’s Ordet.

Both schemes imbue proceedings with a great ghostly aura – what actually happens is almost irrelevant. Having said that, the story is pretty engaging, the twist is nice and the introduction of a minor antagonist character (Culkin) comes at just the right time.


The Last Thing Mary Saw is out on DVD and digital from 19 September 2022.