Emelie (2015)

Emelie first published by Little White Lies

Michael Thelin’s Emelie opens with a leafy neighbourhood street, shot wide by an unmoving camera in a single take. First heard talking on her phone about her babysitting gig that evening, a teenage girl gradually drifts into shot, only to be abducted by a woman in a car and a male accomplice in the street.

This disruption of bourgeois suburbia will continue as the car’s driver Emelie Medéa Liroux (Sarah Bolger) – note that middle name, with its infanticidal associations from Greek mythology – sets about impersonating her victim so as to insinuate herself as the new babysitter in charge of 11-year-old Jacob (Joshua Rush), nine-year-old Sally (Carly Adams) and four-year-old Christopher (Thomas Bair). Emelie’s initial permissiveness soon turns to far more menacingly transgressive behaviours, and as her malicious intentions become clearer, difficult Jacob will need, as his mother has previously insisted, to “step up” and prove that he is “not a kid anymore”, or this family will be torn apart.

Borrowing equally from The Babadook (2014), The Aggression Scale (2012) and Inside (2007), Emelie visits a maniacal form of errant, sexualised adulthood upon children not yet old enough to understand the unhinged predatoriness of Emelie’s conduct, let alone to challenge this malevolent figure of authority. Emelie will eventually turn into a standard-issue movie psychotic as well as a Medea-like study in maternity and madness – but before that happens, she embodies the potential of these three middle-class children, each on their own cusp, to turn out wrong. It is a deeply unsettling examination of childcare’s darker side – set in the supposed comfort of the home.

Anton Bitel