Before I begin my review, this movie has serious trigger warnings. So, be prepared.
Now, I don’t usually read other reviews before seeing a film, unless it’s been out a while and I want to see if it’s worth my time. However, when I Googled the movie to check a couple of names from the cast, I saw that many reviewers didn’t much care for this film, giving it 2 out of 5 stars. I kind of understand why.
As a suspense thriller, Return to Sender isn’t very suspenseful. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the watch, or that it wasn’t a decent film. I find it more like homage to women who have been sexually assaulted. I find that most of the reviewers who panned it, were male. (Sorry to get gender political, but I do think men and women may have different views on this movie).
I will agree that it lacked surprise. The trailer and description of the film kind of give away what’s going to happen. It’s a revenge story. One that I think any woman, who has been on the receiving end of unwarranted sexual attention of any kind, might enjoy.
You have a homespun and dedicated nurse, Miranda Wells (played by Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike) living in a small town, wanting to advance her career from intensive care unit nurse to a surgical nurse. One of her nurse friends (played by Rumor Willis) sets her up on a blind date with a really great guy, Kevin, who worked with her husband.
The man we assume is Kevin (played by Shiloh Fernandez) shows up to Miranda’s house for the date rather early. He’s also not dressed as a guy who would be going on a first date, but she trusts that her friend wouldn’t steer her wrong and lets him in. While she changes for the date, he checks out the apartment, notices that she appears to be all packed up and ready to move, and they make stilted small talk. When he says he doesn’t remember what time their original date was, Miranda gets very uncomfortable and asks him to leave. He goes to the door… and locks it. And then he rapes her.
This was NOT the man her friend set her up with, but rather a guy named William Finn, who’d been stalking her. He gets caught, and sent to prison.
What makes this tale interesting is how Miranda decides to deal with what happened to her. She does report it, that’s how he gets caught. She goes to therapy.
She seems to suck it up. She even starts writing letters to her William in prison. We don’t know what she writes him, but she writes diligently. Every letter comes back Return To Sender.
She finally gets to talk to her rapist and he apologizes, wishes he could change things, etc. They seem to become friends. She visits him in prison religiously. But you know she’s planning something.
During this time, her father, (played by Nick Nolte) has a dog, Benny, who seems to dislike Miranda for no apparent reason. He attacks her and rips her dress. He doesn’t hurt her, but he growls and barks as her every time he sees her. She starts to feed the dog treats and they become friends. Suddenly, the dog dies.
William gets out on parole. He comes to help Miranda fix up her house. He is never let inside. He becomes ill while they’re working on the porch, and she reluctantly lets him come in to use the bathroom.
William wakes up in Miranda’s basement strapped to a bed. She had been poisoning him with anti-freeze, just like she did Benny the dog. Under anesthetic, she amputates his hand. She confesses that she didn’t help her mother when she got an asthma attack and died. She admits she killed her dad’s dog. She then makes William look down at his own body and he screams. It can be assumed that she also amputated his penis.
It was predictable, but still enjoyable to see William get what was coming to him. What I found entertaining was seeing that Miranda was actually a bit of a sociopath! Her behavior is very subtle. She has a germ phobia. She won’t touch things other people have touched, like phones or pens. She’s neat to a fault. She orders a specific kind of pen. She meticulously decorates cakes. She becomes obsessed with the tremor in her hand that started after her rape. This all indicated to me that there was more to her that met the eye. And Pike plays this exceptionally well.
It’s Pike’s performance that takes this from a predictable, non-suspenseful thriller, to a more fascinating psychological lesson. Between that and seeing a rapist get his comeuppance, I found the film kind of fun!
SYNOPSIS: Miranda (Academy Award nominee Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl) is a dedicated nurse, an exquisite cake maker and an impeccable friend. But when she agrees to a blind date and the wrong man comes to her door…her perfect world is shattered by a brutal assault. Even after her attacker, William (Shiloh Fernandez, Evil Dead), is convicted and locked away for the crime, Miranda can’t overcome the fear and trauma enough to put her orderly life back together. Desperate for closure, she reaches out to William – first through letters, then prison visits – and slowly builds a relationship with him. But when William is paroled and comes looking for her, Miranda seizes the opportunity to exact revenge.
DIRECTED BY: Fouad Mikati
WRITTEN BY: Patricia Beauchamp and Joe Gossett
CAST: Rosamund Pike, Shiloh Fernandez, Nick Nolte, Camryn Manheim, Rumer Willis, Illeana Douglas
RUNTIME: 95 Minutes