Whenever I read a film synopsis that includes the words “haunted” and “baby and/or child” in the same paragraph, there is a slight clenching that occurs in my gut.
John Ainslie’s The Sublet is no different. The film revolves around new parents Jeff and Joanna, and their bumbling bundle of joy, Porter, subletting a run-down apartment while Jeff throws himself into a slew of potential acting gigs and Joanna struggles with postpartum depression. A mysterious room and diary prove to be the only company and support Joanna finds in her new creepy abode.
Now, a psychological thriller that focuses on postpartum depression could become a jumbled mess of stereotypical symbolism and misogynistic metaphors, but Ainslie’s crew handled this underlying theme with grace and mastery. Once the credits began rolling, I found myself bouncing up and down in sheer giddiness because this film got it.
The Sublet replaces jump scares with a nearly palpable uneasiness that begins right at the dark and dreary opening and doesn’t let up until about an hour after the movie is over. Tianna Nori and Mark Matechuk have a subtle hold while playing the roles of Joanna and Jeff: never over-acting, but not merely running through the lines. Joanna’s grief is portrayed so vividly by Nori that I felt like I was slowly losing my mind right along with her.
The camera work and script guide the viewer through an endless cycle of grief and desperation without becoming too gimmicky. Rather than rely on age-old excuses behind behaviors, there is one explanation for the haunting torture: postpartum depression. The struggling theme of a barely-understood symptom has proven to be more gripping and believable than just pointing to a demon in the mirror and saying “This dude made me do it!” The realistic rationale can almost make someone rethink ever having children.
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