Mary Portman (Naomi Watts) is a child psychologist who lives in isolation in rural New England after her husband dies in a horrific car accident. The tragedy also leaves her 18 year old stepson Stephen (Charlie Heaton) in a bedridden, catatonic state, making him completely dependent on her. When one of Mary‘s young patients goes missing and is presumed dead, she becomes convinced that the boy’s (Jacob Tremblay) ghost is now haunting both her and Stephen.
It’s beginning to become that time of year. The weather’s getting colder and snow is falling on the ground and films are starting to reflect that. There aren’t many things as scary as being trapped in somewhere isolated. Plenty of films have done this before with maybe The Shining being the best example. Most of them always seem to involve snowstorms. This one is no different but also features the beautiful Québec landscape, masquerading as Maine.
More specifically, Mary Portman (Watts) is a child psychologist who lives in an isolated rural home with her now bedridden, catatonic stepson Stephen (Heaton), after a car accident that also killed her husband. When Mary befriends a troubled young patient named Tom (Tremblay) who then goes missing and presumed dead, she begins to believe that Tom’s ghost is now haunting her and Stephen.
The story should not come as much of a surprise as much of it has been done before in other films. It can also be very hard to follow, making it confusing as it goes in many directions without committing to any. Mary is grieving the loss of her son as she is only left with his lifeless body who is becoming harder to take care of, causing her stress and lack of sleep, leading to bad dreams and hallucinations. Mary becomes close to Tom and takes his disappearance hard as this brings her similar feelings from losing Stephen. Mary has to of course deal with all of this while living in relative isolation.
Mary’s bad dreams and hallucinations began out of stress and frustration from dealing with Stephen to getting visions of Tom after feeling guilty after his disappearance. As these kept getting worse, Mary was faced with strange noises, things moving on their own, and suspenseful music. This was pretty standard fare, suspense film wise but nothing really jumped out. Things jumped out, but it lacked any suspense whatsoever as seeing Mary go around and just react to things was not very exciting. That along with the generic story made it rather boring to watch.
Most of the film doesn’t seem to go anywhere as we follow Mary during her everyday life. She takes care of Stephen. She feeds him, clothes him, and bathes him. She feels guilty as her decision to send her troubled stepson away caused the accident that resulted in his current state. Feeling overwhelmed with responsibility, she decides to send Stephen away again to a care facility. Piling onto this, Mary meets Tom who she becomes invested in as he was a troubled foster child who bounced from home to home. Once he goes missing she becomes even more invested, much to the detriment of Stephen.
The film finally finds a direction during its last third but it involves a stupid twist that comes out of nowhere. Without giving anything away, an already boring film devolved from there. The twist did not make much sense within the context of the film because it didn’t feel earned as it destroyed everything leading up to that point and making everything before almost pointless. It seemed like the script was rushed and they couldn’t seem to figure out how to end the film. The film is called “Shut In” but did a poor job at utilizing this isolation angle.
The acting was mediocre all around with Watts being the best in a phoned in performance. She simply tried to make the best out of a less than ideal situation. She was still kind of compelling to watch but her character was very cliched and uninteresting. Tremblay was there but he had very little to do and his role had no dialogue which relegated him to conveying emotions via facial expressions. Heaton was okay being the catatonic stepson but it was the last third of the film where he had the most to do. He was way over the top which made his performance cringe-worthy.
Overall, this was a generic, derivative, confusing mess of a film with a stupid twist and mediocre performances.