Stars: Jani Volanen, Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Saija Lentonen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila | Written by Hanna Bergholm, Ilja Rautsi | Directed by Hanna Bergholm
A young girl secretly hatches a large bird-like creature in Hatching, a deliciously twisted coming-of-age horror from Finnish director Hanna Bergholm. Anchored by a terrific performance by young newcomer Siiri Solalinna, it’s an impressive directorial debut that suggests Bergholm could be a serious genre talent to watch.
Hatching begins with 12 year old Tinja (Solalinna) stretching her body in preparation for an upcoming try-out for her school gymnastics team. The driving force behind her efforts is immediately clear, as her pushy, overbearing mother (Sophia Heikkilä) records her every move for her video blog, “Lovely Everyday Life”, in which she shows off her perfect home and family.
When a bird accidentally enters the home and causes untold destruction, Tinja’s mother (who’s never named) reacts by snapping the bird’s neck and asking Tinja to dispose of it, “in the organic waste bin”. Unsettled, Tinja heads into the woods near her home, where she finds the bird’s egg, which she then brings home and hides within her large teddy bear.
Given the title of the film, it isn’t all that surprising what happens next. What is surprising is both the nature of the creature and the details of Tinja’s relationship with it, offering up intriguing allegories for a range of tasty themes, including coming-of-age, suppressed desires, teenage rebellion, motherhood and, literally, fleeing the nest.
Wide-eyed youngster Solalinna is sensational in the lead role, seemingly aging and becoming more mature in conjunction with the creature in her bed. It’s a striking performance, simultaneously vulnerable, curious and yet filled with hidden strength and dark desire.
Heikkilä is equally good as Hatching‘s other monster, in a performance that stays just the right side of caricature (but only just). At any rate, the script affords her a layer of complexity (she’s conducting a sexual affair, and is honest about it with Tinje after she catches her) that makes her more than just the standard pushy mother (there’s a hint that she herself was a former skating champion).
Similarly, there’s strong support from Jani Volanen as Tinje’s father, and from Oiva Ollila as her pesky little brother, while Ida Määttänen sparks interesting chemistry with Solalinna as new neighbour Reetta, the seemingly perfect girl-next-door, who could be Tinje’s new best friend, were it not for the fact that she’s also a threat to her spot on the gym team.
In addition to creating a strong sense of atmosphere, Bergholm orchestrates a number of great sequences and keeps the surprises coming right up until the final scene. She’s helped enormously by some seriously impressive effects work, courtesy of effects supervisor Gustav Hoegen and make-up supervisor Conor O’Sullivan – the resulting creature looks like something the Jim Henson Workshop might have created and there’s no higher praise than that.
Hatching screened as part of this year’s London Sundance Film Festival.