Harnessing Kodak 16mm film to capture the creepy atmosphere at a hotel, where things go bump in the night, The Eternal Daughter, written, produced and directed by British filmmaker Joanna Hogg, explores themes about mother and daughter relationships, the preservation of memories and the personal reconciliation of parental loss. Hogg called on the talents of cinematographer Ed Rutherford, who had previously shot Archipelago (2010) and Exhibition (2013) for her, to bring the supernatural story to the big screen.

Filmed in secret during the Covid-19 pandemic, the film opens with Julie, a filmmaker, and Rosalind, her recently widowed mother, riding together in the back of a taxicab to a secluded hotel, deep in the foggy countryside. Bedecked with Gothic spires and chiseled gargoyles, the place was once a private hall, owned by Rosalind’s aunt, and is where Rosalind lived for a while during her youth, including time spent as an evacuee during The Blitz. Julia is trying to write a film about Rosalind and is taking her off for a birthday-weekend treat, hoping that being with her elderly parent in familiar surroundings will help her learn a little more about her mother’s past.

Once inside the hotel, where they seem to be the only guests, Julie surreptitiously records their conversations at dinner and before bedtime. Rosalind’s recounts various reminiscences – fond recollections of how things used to be, as well as some unpleasant reminders of long-buried regrets, including a miscarriage.

Unsettled by what she hears, Julie is equally unnerved by the hotel itself – the grounds are persistently foggy, windows rattle in wind, the place shudders and groans of its own accord, and Rosalind’s dog, Louie, takes to whining and scratching at the bedroom door. It sometimes sounds as though children are running along the shadowy corridors, and a woman might be weeping somewhere nearby. Julie finds she can neither write her script nor sleep in a place that holds positive and negative emotions for her mother, and begins to question herself and her motives.

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