Dorothy Mills


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Dorothy Mills is a psychological/supernatural mystery film which takes place within a remote island community in Ireland.  Little Dorothy, age 15 but seeming younger, went crazy while babysitting one day and hurt the infant she was caring for. The Irish authorities sent a psychiatrist from the mainland to evaluate the situation. The psychiatrist originally came up with a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder - until the psychological part of the mystery gave way to the supernatural.

The dramatic tension in this film centers around the true nature of little Dorothy's multiple personalities. The psychiatrist thinks the various characters being manifest are purely fabrications of Dorothy's imagination, until ...

The premise is similar to the original version of The Wicker Man, except that it establishes a dark, spooky atmosphere in the very first scene, and maintains it throughout. The island is forbidding: jagged cliffs, invariably overcast skies, permanently muddy ground, houses built of rotting timber. The music is foreboding. The staring, taciturn, unsmiling islanders look like refugees from a mental health clinic. All about her, the psychiatrist sees hints that dark rituals are being practiced involving communication with the dead and animal mutilations. To an outsider, every local seems to be hiding terrifying secrets. The islanders not only shield themselves from the outsider, but from each other as well, and the island's tragic history never seems to vanish into the past.

In addition to the creepy ambiance, the film's other big plus is a tremendous lead performance from Jenn Murray. The character's unique ability to channel other personalities requires Ms. Murray to play a half-dozen parts and in each case to match them accurately to other people playing those same parts in other times and places. She manages to impersonate the other actors accurately enough that it can be difficult to determine whether any given character on screen is a flashback from the past or Jenn Murray impersonating that character. When she channels a male, the DP tends to keep the camera off of her at first so that she can sustain the illusion with her voice. When she channels a female, it takes the pause button to determine whether the person on screen is the actress playing lady X, or little Dorothy channeling X.

By the way, the star of this film, playing the psychiatrist, is the Dutch actress Carice van Houten, whose impeccable English is absolutely uncanny. The only accent I could hear was her inability to say the "th" sound in "the," and that may not have been her own accent, but an attempt to duplicate the sound of some regional Irish accent. (If you've been there, you know many natives say "ting" instead of "thing.") She was playing a character with a Dutch name, so I'm not really sure whether she was trying to incorporate any Irish sounds into her vocal range. Either way, she has an impressive phonetic command of a language which is not her own.

The film's solid direction is not a surprise given that the director is Agnes Merlet, who seemed to have a truly promising career about a decade ago, after the release of Artemisia. I'm not sure what happened to Merlet in the interim, but this is her first credit since then. That's about 11 years between films. She still displays plenty of talent at the helm, but I was not as impressed by her script, which seemed to follow all the usual predictable paths, offer all the usual horror film foreshadowing, and draw upon the usual characters and clichés. A lot of the details don't make sense if you think back upon them once you know all the secrets, and the story culminates in one of those endings that leaves the audience thinking, "That's it?", not in the sense that it doesn't provide closure, but in the sense of "C'mon. They couldn't think of any better way to end it?"

The film has a decent rating in the 6s at IMDb, which is about right in terms of the skill involved. It's crafted well enough that a lower score would be unjust, but it's a slow burner with limited appeal. It's not a film with mainstream potential, since it is monotonous and lacks stars, humor, and action. Neither it is a film that will appeal to most fans of modern horror films, since it is laid-back, treads on familiar ground, is lacking in "boo" moments, and has almost no gore on screen. In recognition of the film's limited appeal, distributors in North America and the UK didn't take the bait offered by a Cannes screening, and the only reviews currently online are in French and German.


* widescreen anamorphic







No English-language reviews online.


6.2 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at a half million dollars. It opened in 119 theaters in France, equivalent to about 500 in the States, and finished in 12th place on its opening weekend. The final gross in France was about $1.1 million.

It must have had a brief release in German theaters as well, because this reviewer says on August 24, 2008 that he saw in in the Cinestar 10 in Dortmund. Be that as it may, I could find no numbers for the German run.



The nudity comes from Charlene McKenna, or at least I think so. As I mentioned to the left, it's not always clear whether the character of Mary is McKenna in flashbacks or Jenn Murray as Dorothy channeling Mary.

But I'm 95% sure it's McKenna.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


It is a good old-fashioned ghost story with a good central performance and a lot of gloomy atmosphere. It looks great, considering the purported budget of only $500,000.