Starring: Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley
Director: Zachary Wigon
Sanctuary, which feels like a stage play (the entire movie takes place in a single hotel room), does a great job of keeping viewers on their toes. One is never entirely sure what is real, what is role play, and what is unreliable narrator. Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley bounce off each other exceptionally well, with Qualley especially giving a performance worthy of some non-Oscar awards. The somewhat anticlimactic ending doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it too hard, but it still works organically in the context of the story. Overall, a pleasant, and sometimes sexy, surprise.
Sanctuary starts off fun. There is a little mystery, some sexual tension, and Margaret Qualley at her scene-chewing best. Then, it just keeps going…and going. I slowly began to feel as trapped as the main characters. What begins as a strong look into differing power dynamics, reaches a point where even the twists wear out their welcome. Were this a 45-minute episode of an anthology series, there's no doubt it would be an award winner, but at feature length, there just isn't enough steam to reach the finish line.
Sanctuary had my attention until the very end, and it made good use of that fact. The movie takes place in a single hotel room for the entirety of its runtime, and not once did it feel staged or play-like due, in part, to its vibrant tone and wicked twists. It kept me guessing constantly with its psychological trickery, and, truth be told, I was all in for it. Christopher Abbott is great, but Margaret Qualley is chewing up every single line of dialogue. I loved it. This movie is a success in almost every department.
One of the IP era’s cruelest casualties, the erotic thriller has faded from the cinematic consciousness, especially as the lesser of them are relegated to streaming; leave it to Margaret Qualley to bring it roaring back in fine form. Sanctuary is deliciously fun and deliriously horny, the kind of two-hander that thrives on the strength of its performances and a crackling script from Micah Bloomberg. It is admittedly imperfect, primarily in how it loses much of the eroticism heading into the second act, but the stellar turns from Qualley and Christopher Abbott keep it fresh enough to remain thoroughly engaging.
This film was reviewed by Nick, Quentin, and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.