Siiri Solalinna appears in Hatching by Hanna Bergholm, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by IFC Midnight.
Hatching is one of the most horrific movies I’ve seen at Sundance so far. Written by Ilja Rautsi and directed by Hanna Bergholm, Hatching tells the story of a girl who finds an injured bird’s egg and nurses it to life. And while that might not sound particularly horrific, trust me when I say it is. Hatching delivers a masterclass in body horror and tension. It’s horrifying, heartbreaking, and somehow a little relatable. And if you can vibe with what the movie’s dishing out, it’s an absolutely enthralling watch.
Tense, Emotional, and Engaging
Between the stress of her upcoming gymnastics competition, her image-obsessed mother, and her bratty little brother, Tinja’s (Siiri Solalinna) life isn’t as idyllic as it seems. But when she finds an injured bird’s egg and decides to nurture it, things only grow more complicated. Because, as it turns out, she hasn’t found an ordinary bird egg. Instead, she’s found something far stranger. And the bird-like creature that emerges from that egg proves to be even more bizarre. Bonded to this creature but emotionally and psychologically, Tinja tries to parent it to the best of her ability. But the closer the pair gets, the more dangerous things become.
Bergholm and Rautsi deliver a tense, emotional thriller in Hatching. It’s well-paced, perfectly balancing quieter character-driven moments alongside more bonkers, visually-driven ones. The tension is well-built, both emotionally and narratively. I mean, the film starts off pretty tense, immediately establishing Tinja’s family’s dysfunction, despite the perfect life her mother presents to her blog’s followers. And from there, things only get tenser as Alli, the creature that hatches from the egg, grows more and more unsettling. All of this builds to a climax that’s equal parts horrific, heartbreaking, and thrilling. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about Hatching. It’s a weird little film, to be sure. But one that luxuriates in that weirdness and uses it to create something special.
A Strange Twist on Familiar Narratives
The thing I love most about Hatching is the way it takes seemingly mundane narratives – dysfunctional families, coming-of-age stories, etc – and weaves them into something truly unique. Because underneath the body horror and the creature feature is a deeply relatable story about an unhappy tween trying to figure out who she is. Tinja’s surrounded by a family who pays her little attention. Her mother’s too self-absorbed to see outside of her own little word. Her brother is as bratty as they come. And her father’s as clueless as he is easy to push around. So, is it any wonder that Tinja would cling to this needy creature at first? After all, the opportunity to both give and receive unconditional love is beyond appealing. And it’s clearly what drives Tinja for the bulk of the film. But it’s also what gets her into trouble.
Because the creature that hatches from the egg, later named Alli, isn’t human at all. It’s something… else. Tinja and Alli share a deep connection on an emotional and psychological level. Everything either of them does or feels is felt by the other. A fact that rightfully frightens Tinja and leads to some genuinely tense moments later on. But at the same time, the movie asks, isn’t that what parenting is like anyway? Maybe so. It’s an idea the movie toys with, paralleling Tinja’s struggles with her mother alongside her struggles with Alli. And it’s quite effective, honestly. Especially towards the end of the movie, where the horror comes not only visually but emotionally. Because as scary as Alli can be, Tinja’s mother is just as damaging – but in a more psychological way. And I love the way Bergholm and Rautsi play with that dynamic.
A Brilliant Lead Performance
Siiri Solalinna’s performance is the beating heart of the film. As Tinja, she’s in almost every scene, constantly driving the story forward. The way Solalinna navigates the more emotionally complex moments is beyond impressive. But even more impressive is the sense of realism she brings to the story. I mean, there’s literally a bird-like creature that gradually transforms into a doppelganger of Tinja in this movie. But Solalinna sells the reality of that. And on that note, it’s worth pointing out that Solalinna also portrays Alli in the latter half of the film. So there are numerous scenes where she’s acting opposite herself, delivering very different performances. Alli moves in unsettling ways, all unnatural bends and creepiness. But Solalinna’s performance never goes too over the top. She brings the same sense of reality to Alli, making Alli all the scarier in the process.
Horrific, Yet Adorable, Visuals
Visually, Alli goes on quite a journey. When Alli first hatches, they look more like a weird skeletal bird creature. It’s simultaneously horrifying and adorable. The combination of fragility and viciousness makes you want to root for this creature. And even as Alli becomes more and more like Tinja, that combination remains in place. At times, Alli almost looks human. But there’s always something off, some part that feels like it belongs in the uncanny valley. The fingers are too long, with sharp daggers for nails. The jaw looks like it could unhinge itself at any minute, like a bird of prey. And it’s so well-realized – some truly brilliantly designed body horror. Hell, even Alli’s egg, which grows to a wildly unnatural size, communicates this sense of unease. Visually, the film is a masterpiece. And it nicely compliments the script’s darker elements.
At the end of the day, Hatching is a strange, gripping watch. Solalinna’s dual performance as Tinja and Alli, alongside Alli’s ever-evolving visual depiction, go a long way towards selling the film’s horror and emotional core. But what I loved the most is the creepy twist Bergholm and Rautsi put on more traditional dramatic narratives. Hatching certainly won’t be for everyone. But for people like me, it’s an enthralling, horrific delight.
Hatching premiered in the Midnight section of Sundance Film Festival 2022.
Director: Hanna Bergholm
Writer: Ilja Rautsi
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Part-time writer, part-time theatre nerd, full-time dork.