It's like Dogtooth. But better.
Following up his icky, and implausibly Oscar-nominated, family drama Dogtooth, Lanthimos pares and restructures that film’s preoccupations with disaffection, Buñuelian domestic absurdity, and American pop culture, with more efficient results. Lanthimos imagines an underground organization (the ALPs, all named after peaks of the Swiss Alps), who are hired to stand in as deceased people in order to ease the grieving processes of their loved ones. It’s interesting work, sure, but the kind of thing to unsettle concepts of personal identity. And so, “Monte Rosa” (Aggeliki Papoulia), begins to go above and beyond the call of duty, indulging her clients baser whims, while forging relationships with the “real” people she’s hired to perform against.
Where Dogtooth picked, a bit conspicuously at times, at the performative gestures of family-as-atomized-social-unit, ALPS burrows even deeper. As “Monte Rosa” begins losing herself in her roles, Lanthimos examines the burlesque of identity, of the structured development of the self. This might make it sound like a bit of cinematic academese or something, but ALPS keeps things darkly funny and sweepingly unsettling throughout. (And Lanthimos is a master of sustaining the fleeting terror in the instant anticipating a flash of pent-up violence.) Oblique without being impenetrable, ALPS is first-rate filmmaking from one of the cinema’s emerging (or, perhaps, now certified) essentials.