Did being cooped up during the pandemic make us hate or miss our family, or both? I ask this question in light of Shudder’s latest release, “Leave,” a film about a woman attempting to track down her parents. Hunter White (Alicia Von Rittberg) was found abandoned in a cemetery as an infant. That’s not the strangest part though. The blanket she’s wrapped in are covered in Satanic symbols and she’s also wearing a Satanic looking necklace. Those are all the clues White has to go on as she does an at-home DNA test where she finds out she’s of Scandinavian descent. So White is off to Norway to track down her roots and it’s about as exciting as my explanation.
I think the biggest issue I had throughout “Leave” is that the film tells you from the get-go that what White will be dealing with is religious, or at the very least, Satanic in nature. So with that element of mystery undone in the first minute, the movie has to rely on White’s personality and story to carry the rest of the film, which also doesn’t work. White is immediately a sympathetic character because she’s an orphan with absolutely nothing to go on when it comes to her own parents and lineage. The issue with White as a character is that she lets that fact control her personality, mood and persona. I can’t pinpoint anything about White that isn’t somehow related to the fact that she’s an orphan. We never get a sense of who she is, which is unfortunate since Rittberg does a good job in the role.
White’s personality, which is as vanilla as her last name, is made weaker by stronger secondary characters that she encounters in Norway. The other thing that happens during the film are spooky instances of spirits that appear to be warning or scaring White away from her goal. I would have mentioned that earlier, but the spirit things really aren’t scary and White doesn’t even act scared sometimes because…she’s an orphan?
Technically speaking, “Leave” should be a good film. The cinematography is astounding; you can feel the Scandinavian winter nip at you through the screen. Other than that, the movie is meandering, bloated and pawing at nothing as it reaches a surprisingly climactic ending. The ending is actually another bright spot, but since it takes almost an hour-and-a-half to get to those juicy 15 minutes, I felt like the payoff should have been grander and sooner. Also, because we don’t connect with White, the ending doesn’t feel as impactful as the film and director thinks it does. Ultimately, Shudder has enough content that you’re better off leaving “Leave” off your list.