Earwig movie review & film summary (2022)

Mia and Albert’s fraught relationship is eventually juxtaposed with a related subplot involving Celeste (Romola Garai), a traumatized barmaid, and Laurence (Alex Lawther), her officious partner. But the well-articulated parallels of these two storylines eventually draw too much attention away from the movie’s other attractive qualities, like composer Augustin Viard’s eerie, minimalistic score and cinematographer Jonathan Ricquebourg’s gorgeous impressionistic close-ups. So while “Earwig” often threatens to slip into a potent and chilly sort of dream logic, its creators never stop explaining we’re looking at and why their experiences are stacked on top of each other.

One reason for the movie’s uneasy blend of surreal and novelistic storytelling: its primary focus on Albert’s stuffy, disassociated point-of-view. He scowls and fusses over Mia as he prepares her meals—milk and mashed potatoes, since she can’t chew anything tougher—and draining the spit valves that flank her elaborate head-gear. Mia wears dentures that Albert prepares for her using the saliva that he collects from her mouth. He then freezes her spit and shapes it into dentures using a mold of Mia’s lower and upper jawline.

Mia and Albert’s lives are initially defined by this and other stifling rituals, until Albert’s mysterious benefactor calls to say that Albert should prepare Mia for delivery to parts unknown. Albert tries to stifle his visible distress—his patron tells him that his services will soon no longer be needed—but only winds up running into his problems at a nearby bar, where he encounters Celeste and a mysterious stranger (Peter Van Den Begin). This stranger asks Albert if he’s ever wondered what it’s like to be somebody else. That question and its loaded implications split “Earwig” in two parts, the first of which poses a question that the second neatly answers.

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