Widowed mother Holly (Sienna Guillory) is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newfound faith, Betsey refuses to eat but loses no weight. In an agonizing dilemma, torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs.
A Banquet follows Betsey, a teenager attempting to find her footing after the traumatic death of her father. After wandering into the woods at a party, she emerges changed. She stops eating but never loses an ounce. Something is quite wrong.
Director Ruth Paxton and Screenwriter Justin Bull understands how to highlight the complexities of women. A Banquet‘s haunting visuals and invasive close-ups are often combined with ear-piercing moments of audio, placing you in the emotional chaos of its characters.
Lindsay Duncan plays the family matriarch. Duncan is a legend. As June, she’s cold and intense; convinced Betsey’s condition is a put-on, her pride drives a wedge between the four women.
Playing younger sister Isabelle, Ruby Stokes is everything you need her to be. Supportive and bright, her chemistry with Jessica Alexander is brilliant. The script’s structure allows her to move from a nonchalant baby sister to an additional caretaker. She relents to the unknown, forcibly aging her years in months. She’s fantastic.
Sienna Guillory plays mum Holly with PTSD written all over her. The underlying trauma, at times, stops her in her tracks. Holly is borderline OCD, so her new circumstance is unbearable. As the story progresses, her fury and desperation grow exponentially. Jessica Alexander as Betsey gives a scary good performance. Justin Bull’s script allows her to play every emotion in the book. One moment she’s practically comatose and the next manipulative. It’s a rollercoaster ride. She’s extraordinary.
The entire film simmers with pulse-quickening energy. The film is set predominantly in the family home, the walls are richly dark, and the light is dim. It allows each woman (and their carefully curated wardrobe) to pop against the background. The score is chill-inducing. Folklore meets grief, A Banquet is entirely unsettling and mysterious from beginning to end. It shook me to my core.