He plays the small town detective Bruce Kenner, taking on a strange case – whereby a father named John Gray (David Dencik) has handed himself in to the police, confessing to have sexually abused his teenage daughter, Angela (Emma Watson), though admitting he has absolutely no recollection of ever committing the crime. Professor Kenneth Raines (David Thewlis) is on hand to help out though, convincing the local law enforcement to use regression therapy to unlock the memories from the back of the perpetrator’s mind – which takes this case down a dark, dangerous, and somewhat surreal path.
Amenabar’s horror/thriller/drama/pastiche doesn’t quite know what’s its trying to be. Though playing up to the tropes of the horror genre, it’s also set up as something of a whodunnit, as we embody our leading detective and use him in an attempt to get to the root of this illogical situation. Except it isn’t one bit scary, and he who dunnit reveals his crime in the opening stages, so where exactly does that leave us? It makes for a title that is mostly free of suspense, also not helped by the fact Kenner is convinced from the word go that the entire case is just a form of mass hysteria, thus never allowing for the viewer to truly engage themselves and feel involved, as it’s effectively been written off from the offset.
Nonetheless, Hawke turns in an accomplished display, as his character represents the only truly intriguing plot device, which is how Kenner slowly, but surely, loses the plot – tirelessly fighting his inner demons and questioning everything he once believed. There are also positives that derive from the visual experience too, as a bleak, rainy aesthetic helps to create a chilling, if somewhat unoriginal ambiance.
Yet Regression still feels like the cinematic equivalent of a dog chasing its tail. We go round and round in several circles, constantly looking for answers and some sense of clarity – and yet we’re left with neither, with a profoundly underwhelming finale that deems the entire production somewhat pointless.