Confined to a lavish hotel room, the sophomore feature from director Zachary Wigon playfully straddles between black comedy and erotic thriller. The plot focuses on Hal (Christopher Abbott), the wealthy heir to a hotel empire. At his behest, he is joined by dominatrix Rebecca (Margaret Qualley) whilst ordering obscene amounts of food from room service. As they embark upon their business, a surprise announcement flips the dynamic of their working relationship.
With just two performers and one location, the film feels somewhat staged or theatrical and yet Wigon applies a striking visual flair to the intimate chamber piece. His frames are captured in a slick waxy sheen, perfect for the cat and mouse dialogue to unfurl upon. The camera neatly twists and tilts along with the arousing score, mimicking the topsy turvy power shifts in the narrative.
As the plot takes shape, Micah Bloomberg’s gripping script flirts with ideas around privilege, gender roles, class, and society’s perception of contemporary sex work. Just when you think you have the beats figured out, the rug is pulled again as its sharp commentary subverts our expectations to keeps us just a few steps behind.
Christopher Abbott has been impressing in the indie scene for many years, and he’s terrific to watch in a role like this. Hal is a bit of an everyman, albeit a soon to be very rich and often arrogant one. He’s willing to have his fun and let his guard down, but he’s reluctant to cross a line which could threaten how he will be perceived by others. Meanwhile, Rebecca represents the pushing of said line, teasing and toying to see how far he will go to get what he wants. Qualley really gets her teeth into the material and expresses phenomenal comic timing at just the right moments.
Daring, sexy, shocking, and wickedly funny, Sanctuary is a red-hot two hander that never quite lets us know who’s on top.
A UK release date is yet to be confirmed