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STREAMING SELECTIONS: "Queen of Earth"

IFC Films
Elisabeth Moss stars as Catherine in the 2015 film, "Queen of Earth".
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Being that this is an analysis, there will be spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, watch it. It’s phenomenal.

Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) sits at a table enjoying a dinner with her best friend, Jenny (Katherine Waterston) and her current lover, Rich (Patrick Fugit). It’s at a secluded lake house that Jenny’s parents own and allows her to use whenever. Catherine’s father just committed suicide and her boyfriend just left her. Tranquility brought by the secluded house and alone time with her best friend is prompted to help her perhaps grieve easier.

Catherine isn’t eating; she has no desire. Their stay is nearing the end and it became more of a Jenny and Rich vacation than it was a week given for Catherine to temporarily escape humanistic judgment or falsified contact.

“You are worthless. You are the reason my father had to kill himself because he couldn’t stand to live in a place where people like you exist. You are the reason depression exists,” Catherine bluntly tells Rich.

On the water-front, Queen of Earth is an examination of how mental health is repeatedly dismissed in Western culture as a majority of people without any type of mental disorder can’t understand it. It uncovers how two individuals can verbally dismantle one another within the span of a week. The undertow of the problems spans classism, narcissism and everything that can affect either. Elisabeth Moss also displays one of the most revealing performances in recent memory. There’s almost no other way she could have played her character any more broken.

It also has a lot of similar qualities of Ingmar Bergman’s cinematic spectacle Persona. Sure, two women in a remote location together and they learn more about themselves by the end of it. You get it. Even Jenny wears a black tracksuit with a turtleneck similar to the ones the two main leads in Persona wear from time-to-time. It’s a homage by being similar in how it becomes an exact opposite. Persona was two women eventually joining to be one subconscious entity and Queen of Earth is two women being pulled apart when pushed together.

The flashbacks occur about a year prior when they visited the same house for another emotional vacation, but this time, Catherine brought her then-boyfriend, who nags at her in the way that Rich detests Catherine. Bringing a plus-one to a time of grieving is an easy way to show the other character that their feelings in their time of need aren’t as impossible as their wants.

The title Queen of Earth is what characters like Rich try to categories Catherine’s condition. Catherine comes from a wealthy and well-known artist as her late-father and her job was to oversee his company — thus putting her in the bubble of “spoiled brat with daddy’s money.” We don’t get to see any interactions that would confirm this, other than Rich’s nagging at her for her allegedly nepotism. What she has actually inherited was her father’s artistic ability, along with his depression. Both Catherine and Jenny are a bit egotistical, but won’t admit it.

Rich’s purpose is to reflect Catherine’s insecurities; he even speaks to her in phrases one might repeat to doubt oneself: “You’ll never be as important as your father,” etc. He almost stalks her and rebels in the notion of doing any little thing to make her feel uncomfortable and unwanted. He thinks Catherine is being too outlandish in her behavior of everyone in her life being nonexistent now.

Catherine's constant face pains are an indication of anxiety pains and also, they get more severe as time passes, almost like her mask she wears to keep everything inside in cracking. The mask she wears to try to be normal, to not succumb to becoming her father.

Back to the surface level reading of the film, it’s about Catherine’s social anxiety at times and the general Western population not understand her and thus, shunning her as an outsider. Or labeling her as a “spoiled brat” that thinks she’s superior to everyone.

Catherine is sometimes physically restrained to her bed as a way to not interact with the negativity that the outside world produces upon her. To have a character being pushed to the depths of an absolute void of necessity by stripping her of her father and her significant other, then have her best friend continue to jab at her obvious insecurities in her time of need. It only ever ends when they finally separate with Jenny left crying and Catherine left laughing.

For a brief week, Jenny became Queen of Earth as she had a previous-year-old experience to hang over Catherine’s head. Now they are apart and Jenny is lost without her, making Catherine’s presence emotional royalty.

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About the Author

Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is a Journalism major. He is...

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