There are few movies in my life that cause my jaw to drop when they end, and the screen finally goes black. Talk to Me, an Australian A24 film,made it on that very short list.
Twins Danny and Michael Philippou’s directorial debut has a clear and seamless beginning, middle, and end. Every scene and character—even the animals—have purpose to drive the story along. Sometimes when I watch movies, I find myself secretly wondering how many minutes are left, I get confused about the plot line or timeline, or I feel like the screenwriter was a little too excited with the first half of the movie and then rushed through the last portion of the script. With Talk to Me, none of these possibilities were the case.
Talk to Me follows Mia (played by Sophie Wilde), the main protagonist, who is mourning the death of her mother on the anniversary of her passing. Her father (Marcus Johnson) tries to comfort and connect with her the best that he can. Still, Mia ignores him each time and instead spends time with her chosen family, consisting of her friend Jade (Alexandra Jensen), Jade’s mom Sue (Miranda Otto), and Jade’s brother Riley (Joe Bird). One night, Mia, Jade, and Riley all sneak out to go to a party where a mysterious game is being played, one that is being posted about all over social media. In said videos, the three can see kids their age with fully black eyes, contorting their bodies in inhuman ways and making weird noises, all while being strapped to a chair. At the party, they learn about the step-by-step process that must be followed in order for the participant to get to this point of no control—first, the participant holds a special statuesque hand with words scribbled all over it. The hand is rumored to be the embalmed hand of a Satanist or possibly a medium, but the actual origins are unknown. Second, another person lights a candle, and while the main participant grasps the hand, they follow the third step and say aloud, “Talk to me.” The very last step, and the most frightening is the fourth, when the participant says, “I let you in.” They must hold onto the hand for no more than 90 seconds, and the result is that they see and are inhabited by the spirit of a dead person. If they go past 90 seconds or forget to blow out the candle when the time is up… things can and will go awry. At first, this may seem like a game to the group of kids, but as time goes on, they discover just how unpredictable the spirit world can be.
One might wonder why anyone would willingly dabble with the spirit world in a game-like scenario, but apparently you don’t know until you try it or watch it firsthand. After her first time playing the game, Mia says to the group, euphoric, “It felt amazing. I could see and feel everything.” The feeling of being possessed seems akin to being under the influence of a mind-altering substance. Additionally, much like any online challenge nowadays, people take part to get the unusual event on film and post it on social media. The more views the video gets, the more people want to try it out for themselves to test the legitimacy of the game.
I am the type of movie-goer who loves endings that leave me with more questions about the film than I know what to do with; I prefer those over cut-and-dried endings. I ruminated on the rationale behind a few characters’ actions, the possible metaphors, and what exactly the ending meant to me as a viewer. Other than selfishly wishing that there were subtitles on the screen because I had a difficult time understanding the characters’ Australian accents at times, I would change nothing about this film. Unlike the participants in this disturbing game, I didn’t need a strap to tie me down into my seat at the movie theater—I was happily (yet horrifyingly) planted there, unmoving, from beginning to end. I can only wonder about and look forward to what other great works the Philippou brothers will have in store for us in the future.