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Berlinale 2015: Sometimes Things Are Just Bad

Berlinale 2015: Sometimes Things Are Just Bad


If Listen Up Philip (USA, 2014) was a dramatic comedy about two horrible men, Queen of Earth (USA, 2015) comes across as some scarily weird, but at the same time, extremely exciting hybrid between a mumblecore, a horror and a psychological thriller, dealing with the trope of broken women. It’s a toxic film-monster that shows us a slowly degrading relationship between two long-time friends.

Elisabeth Moss is brilliant as Catherine, a young woman, trying to cope with some very recent and abrupt changes in her life. Her inability to deal with the death of her father and a broken relationship with her boyfriend increases her depression. Catherine’s narcissistic sense of entitlement also brings about passive-aggressive behaviour in her friend Virginia. Much of the film consists of long conversations between the two. Mean dialogues and extreme close-ups create a tense environment in which everybody (including viewers) feels nauseated.


The time-shifting narrative, which is brilliantly underlined by a very misleading score, creates the film’s increasingly unpleasant tone. Whenever we feel that we know what is going on, the music adds on another layer of meaning and completely changes our perspective of the story. We are constantly lost in the process of trying to understand what the hell is going on.

Even though the characters inhabit idyllic natural surroundings, they are suffocating under the weight of their own fear and anxieties. The fresher the air, the more the epidemic of depression spreads. When they are in the city and surrounded by the normalcy of other neurotics and misanthropes, everything is fine, but when they leave the city, they face only nature and themselves, and slowly fall into madness.

Alex Ross Perry is quickly becoming one of the strongest voices of his generation. With Queen of Earth he has established himself as a brilliantly uncompromising contemporary auteur. He doesn’t spare any of his miserable characters anything. He show us all of their faults, shortcomings and endless uncertainties. Because sometimes things are just bad.

Ana Šturm // Written for Berlinale Talent Press 2015 // Berlinale 2015