Everyone has an opinion on spoilers and whether they like them or not, but if they’re that devastating to the enjoyment of a movie, doesn’t that mean the movie’s doing something wrong? Should enjoyment of a film be that dependent on whether the plot points are a surprise? Maybe if I’d read some of the articles written after the Batman #50 debacle I would have encountered this argument before but hearing Thijs Meuwese talk about it in his commentary track for the Artsploitation film, Molly, made me realize he has a point.
Meuwese wrote and co-directed Molly with Colinda Bongers and even if you know everything that’s going to happen in advance, it doesn’t diminish the returns. Maybe action movies are especially resilient, since describing a fight can never compete with seeing the fight in-person, but that doesn’t account for all of Molly’s many merits, including actress, Julia Batelaan, in her feature film debut.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, where we don’t know what’s happened or how long the world’s been like this, Molly’s alone and trying to survive off what’s left – tin cans and, if Molly’s lucky, a few sealed cans. Filmed on a Dutch island in highly saturated colors, this isn’t a world where Molly meets many kind people. The one subculture we’re introduced to looks to the Colosseum days for entertainment, drugging people to fight like rabid animals in a pit.
Molly, who can create force fields like Lauren on The Gifted, would make an attractive new addition to their supplicants (what they call their fighters) but no one’s been able to catch her. No one until Molly meets a little girl in a dragon costume named Bailey (Emma de Paauw). When the bad guys find out she’s taking care of a child they send their best woman, Kimmy (Annelies Appelhof), to kidnap her. That way, when Molly tries to take Bailey back, they can find a way to subdue her.
Often this would play out with a broken Molly being forced to fight in the pits, but Molly doesn’t follow your typical hero’s journey (which Meuwese says in his commentary but it takes a moment to comprehend what that means). There’s a big, storm-the-fortress sequence that’s edited to look like one take, so the camera’s always moving, using random characters for transitions and never committing to staying by Molly’s side. The bad guys are completely unprepared for Molly and pay dearly for their mistake.
A few times in his commentary Meuwese says “in hindsight” and brings up something he would’ve changed but the film doesn’t need any changes. It’s true you don’t realize the hill they’re running up in the opening scene is steep, and if they had shot the scene in profile maybe you would, but then you’d lose the current version where the camera has a mind of its own, overtaking the characters and letting them catch up, instead of changing course, and that would be a loss. In one of the scenes with Molly’s hawk he notes a small mistake, but I would’ve never realized the hawk scenes were shot in a parking lot with a green screen.
There’s a lot of first class directing on display in Molly. A woman gets the jump on Molly while she’s washing in a brook. Any nudity in that scene is a consequence of Molly being attacked without her shirt on. You never feel like the camera is purposely going for a boob shot and it’s a girl-on-girl fight in name, but not stereotype.
While Molly is filmed in English there are long stretches without any dialogue. Batelaan’s ability to hold your attention through all that silence is something not every actress can do. The fights were choreographed by stunt coordinators (and you get to see some of the rehearsals in a “Making of Molly” featurette), but they feel improvised. Molly is constantly looking to the objects around her for ideas and the best is when she slides under a mattress and has to use the bed frame as a shield. Not once do you see a stunt double go in for Batelaan or Appelhof and considering the physicality of their roles, that’s quite the accomplishment.
A teaser at the end leaves the door open for a sequel, but Meuwese doesn’t mention any plans to make one. By hinting at a larger plot, the film goes further than the sci-fi movies that lose themselves trying to explain everything. A girl power movie that lets post-apocalyptic life be messy, and that doesn’t give our main character any breaks (but she still wins by a landslide), Molly is available now on Blu-Ray and DVD, and on VOD from Artsploitation.