The privileges and pathologies of motherhood are the subject of “Proxy,” Zack Parker’s fascinating, unnerving and endlessly unpredictable thriller.
Two grieving mothers meet at a support group: doe-like Esther (Alexia Rasmussen), who was brutally clubbed when eight months pregnant, and kindly Melanie (Alexa Havins), whose young son was abducted some years ago. But neither woman is exactly who she claims to be; the two are motivated by a glassy-eyed obsession with the extra attention that accompanies pregnancy and family tragedy.
By chance, Esther learns that Melanie not only lives with her son, but that she enacts his disappearance and subsequent discovery in malls with hysterics. When she confronts her new friend with the truth, it plunges their relationship with each other and with their respective partners (Kristina Klebe and Joe Swanberg) into a serpentine path of lurid and bizarre events.
Halfway through the film, the narrative undergoes a startling tectonic shift that tightens its focus on Melanie’s mania while setting into motion an elegantly eerie revenge plot. It’s not a spoiler to say that because the sudden, hairpin-like plot twists are so bewildering and original.
Whatever “Proxy” lacks in narrative cohesion and psychological realism, it makes up for in its compelling fever-dream quality and its probing questions about the darker side of parenting.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 2 hours
Playing: At Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also available on VOD.