Gaslighting may not be aimed exclusively at women, but history and society continue to help make them the most likely target. Too often they don’t believe in things big and small, and while some people point out “truths” with good intentions, others do so out of denial or worse. Beat offers a brief glimpse into a woman’s experience, drawing a fine line between drama and genre.
Molly (Cecilia Milocco) leaves a mental hospital after a year inside its walls and is fine. At least that’s what she tells her doctor before heading back to an uncertain world. She moves into a new apartment, meets some of her neighbors – all men, all tall enough to tower above her tiny body – and soon hears a pounding echo through her ceiling. Tenants above and around her claim not to hear the sound, but Molly’s concern grows when the knock is accompanied by the low screams of a woman who appears to need help. A local heatwave exacerbates matters and when both neighbors and police reject their claims, they realize that the truth is theirs and hers alone to discover. Unless, of course, it’s all in her head.
Knock is a brief slowburn of a story that focuses on a woman’s nervous breakdown, and while it is sometimes suspenseful and inconsistent in others, the one-through-line is a standout lead role for Milocco. director Frida Kempff holds her front and center from start to finish and every emotional twist can be seen on Milocco’s round, fragile face. We breathe her air and instantly in her corner, but intense heat and an unspoken mental history are strong arguments against what she thinks is real. That in turn leaves the audience nervous and seductively unsure of our protagonist.
This question – is this real or in Molly’s head – is maintained until the end (and probably until the credits). The final moments of the film try to sort of break up, but writers Emma Broström and Johan Theorin Failure to confirm the implication to a truly satisfactory degree. Possibly worse, and depending on how you read the movie, it ends without Molly at all. The end result would have worked out the same way without her involvement, and that’s an odd remark for a film about a woman who is not taken seriously.
Knock works hard to point out that Molly’s mental problems remain, problems resulting from a loss hinted at in dreamy fragments and flashbacks, and uncertainty is what drives the film in large measure. We see things that can only be imagined, including a suicide across the yard, and that’s reason enough to suspect that the rest are just as wrong. Milocco’s appearance, however, insists that we listen to her, and it’s a compelling line to go, even if common sense really never matters. She never even thinks of recording the knocking and screaming on her phone, and when she comes across some suggestively damn evidence, she just disappears into the next scene. She tries to decipher the knock by studying Morse code, but the results are just as trustworthy as the others.
Although the payout never quite arrives in the most difficult of ways despite minor efforts, Knockings’ short run time remains exciting thanks to Milocco and an impressive production design and style. She is endlessly sweaty from the heat and its own intensity, a stain on the ceiling seems to grow and her apartment becomes a claustrophobic environment. Martin DirkovScoring ranges from traditional to slightly deviating, and is cleverly used to convey Molly’s state of mind as even the most mundane tasks disturb her. All of this results in a final quarter of an hour that drives Molly and the audience to the edge and over the edge. But where is the question that unfortunately remains.
The knock shows a worried woman who is still in pain from the person she couldn’t save and who is completely busy helping another woman in need. Does she? I won’t say it, I probably can’t tell, but even with its dubious ending, the movie is a reminder to listen to the people around you, whether they are close or simply sharing your space. It could only save a life.
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