Don’t let Braid’s glossy coating and vibrant color scheme fool you; it is most assuredly out for blood. From its off-kilter camera positioning to its rapid narrative swings, this macabre journey is a nauseating experience, in the best way possible. Caught somewhere between Sofia Coppola and Brian De Palma, between Wes Anderson and Michael Haneke, director Mitzi Peirone’s confident tale of mind-altering unease is handsomely shot, sufficiently eerie, and delightfully strange.
On the run from the law, small-time drug pedalers Petula (Imogen Waterhouse, Nocturnal Animals) and Tilda (Sarah Hay, Flesh and Bone) need a place to lay low for a while. As reluctant as they are to call upon psychotic childhood friend Daphne (Orange is the New Black’s Madeline Brewer, in a wonderfully horrifying turn), they’ve run out of options. While at her secluded mansion, the girls are forced to participate in a grisly roleplay scenario that threatens to deteriorate both body and spirit.
Make no bones about it, Braid is a tight machine, and it ensures that its strict power dynamic is firmly established right at the onset. After laying out the specific rules that would dictate everything that was to follow (in vintage embroidery on the wall: 1. Everyone Must Play. 2. No Outsiders Allowed. 3. Nobody Leaves.), the gruesome game of cat and mouse unfolds like some sort of extreme, psychosexual improv exercise. Upending our shifting perception, the film doesn’t tip its hand too early, keeping the viewer on their toes. Through an assortment of clues that would entice a literature major, it gradually – and cleverly – invites you into the specifics of its world.
A relative newcomer, director Mitzi Peirone quickly displays a stunning and distinctive visual style. Braid leads first and foremost with its sleek and smooth cinematography, pulling out ambitious tricks of the trade, such as draining its frame of all color depending on the narrative’s tonal ebb and flow or flipping the camera entirely to cement its disorienting affectation. Much of the film’s strength lies in crafting a morbid, atmospheric psychological thrill ride that’s certainly not for those with a faint heart or a weak stomach.
Just before its resolution, Braid spits out some seemingly nonsensical sequences that appear to signal the film going off the rails entirely. But fear not, Mitzi Peirone knows precisely what she’s doing. She’s simply toying with us, allowing us a brief moment of satisfaction as we mistakenly think we’ve outsmarted her, only to pull the rug out from under us. When the smoke clears, Braid ends precisely where it began: in a candy-colored haze that has us just as unsettled as we are intrigued. This is the chilling inauguration of a filmmaker with enough promise and poise to continue turn heads for years to come.