This confusing tale might leave you feeling empty
As many parents will already know, children can be fussy eaters. Put a plate of peas in front of them and these succulent green vegetables are more likely to end up in the mouth of the dog rather than the mouth of the child themselves! This is partly because some kids have a natural tendency to distrust green foods and partly because they haven’t yet acquired the taste for anything that isn’t overloaded with sugar!
But then there are those children who aren’t picky because of their dislike of certain foods. They struggle to eat because of the eating disorders they have developed and in such cases, they need the intervention of a trained professional that can help them overcome their particular challenges.
In Ruth Paxton’s psychological horror tale, teenager Betsey (Jessica Alexander) refuses to eat the food that her mother Holly (Sienna Guillory) has prepared for her (including those dreaded peas). And for a while, it is assumed that it has something to do with an eating disorder that she has developed rather than as a consequence of fussy eating. In Betsey’s case, it seems likely that the disorder was brought on by the psychological distress she experienced after witnessing her father kill himself by voluntarily choking on the food that had been prepared for him.
The scenes of her choking when trying to eat certainly seem to tie into her father’s death but as this strange tale goes on, there is another explanation for her resistance to food.
At one point during the film, Betsey wanders alone outside after breaking off from her group of friends and she observes a blood-red moon. This might seem like an inconsequential event but in Biblical scripture, a blood-red moon is part of a series of prophecies about the eventual end of the world.
A verse in the Book of Joel reads “The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” There is another reference to a blood-red moon in the Book of Revelations, which in itself is an extended vision of the apocalypse.
What does this have to do with Betsey’s refusal to eat? Well, it’s all a bit complicated really but her behaviour changes after seeing the moon. She starts to talk about an impending catastrophe and, after becoming ‘enlightened,’ she decides that her body belongs to a higher power, hence her refusal to eat anything. Kids the world over have come up with some fantastic excuses for not eating their greens but this has to be the most unbelievable of them all!
As Betsey believes what she is saying, she isn’t simply trying to get out of eating her mum’s cooking, but there is the possibility that she has become mentally unwell, perhaps because of the trauma of her dad’s death. However, this doesn’t explain why Betsey fails to lose weight after going for months without any food. So, could the world really be coming to an end? Is Betsey’s body really in service to a higher power? And is this higher power sustaining her?
Paxton teases these questions out of us but she doesn’t give us any concrete answers. Despite the allusions to scripture and folklore, we are left to figure out the meaning of Betsey’s behaviour, and the movie as a whole, by ourselves.
Still, we don’t need enlightenment to enjoy a movie as there have been many other horror titles that have been slow in providing clarity. Hereditary, The Neon Demon, and David Lynch’s Eraserhead are just a few of the better examples but there may be others that you have watched through to the end and enjoyed but still scratched your head over.
Sometimes it’s okay for a movie to simply be classified as ‘weird’ provided the other pieces fit together well, such as the quality of the acting and the power of the imagery, and on both of these aspects, A Banquet delivers.
However, this still isn’t as good as it could have been as I think it is more confusing than it is intended to be. I’m not sure Paxton wants us to classify her film as being ‘weird for the sake of it’ as I’m sure she is trying to make a point about grief or faith. For me, I don’t think she made her points clearly enough and it’s because of this that the movie is a frustrating rather than challenging watch.
Of course, it might be that I need to watch it again to get more from it but for now, I’m as clueless as you might be if you try to understand the symbolism and Betsey’s apocalyptic ramblings. If you can provide meaning to the movie, please leave us a comment below to help us decipher this confusing and ponderous movie.
Read More: A Banquet Ending Explained
Verdict - 5.5/10