During a cold and stormy night, Joyce (Tracey Ann Wood) is surprised when a young man comes to her front door. The man introduces himself as John (Ryan Wichert), and asks to take shelter in Joyce's cottage from the storm, as well as get help with his broken arm. Despite reluctance to allow a stranger into her home, Joyce relents and lets John inside, with the two initially beginning to form a wary friendship as they prepare to weather the storm out together.
But as the night goes on, tensions unexpectedly arise between Joyce and John, with the former blaming this on the storm. But over the course of the night, it soon becomes clear that the tension goes much deeper than the pair realize—and it will lead to a series of revelations that threaten to turn a seemingly simple arrangement into a destructive nightmare.
For much of its runtime, The Redeeming keeps its events shrouded in ambiguity. The soundtrack is mostly silence, and scenes are instead entirely focused on the conversations between Joyce and John, with any action being reserved for the film's third act. This deliberate pace and ambiguous atmosphere is ultimately The Redeeming's greatest strength, as it allows the audience to go through much of the movie completely blind, with only a few cryptic clues thrown their way to try and piece together what is going on between these two strangers thrown together by fate. While the answer might become clear to some viewers earlier than the film intends, it won't lessen the intense and attention-capturing mood set by The Redeeming's calculated progression.
The setting and performances further strengthen this suspenseful atmosphere. Much of the film takes place in a small, sparsely lit, and isolated cottage, matching the film's mysterious and foreboding mood, and adding another layer of tension to the proceedings. And with two characters being the only people we see for a grand majority of the film, there's practically no room for poor performances. Thankfully, Tracey Ann Wood and Ryan Wichert are both strong in their respective roles. Joyce goes through a plethora of moods throughout the film, with Wood taking them all on with expressive gusto, and seamless transition from one mood swing to the next. The latter trait is essential to developing Joyce's enigmatic character, as she keeps the viewer on their toes as to what's going through her head, and how things with John will end. Ryan Wichert is similarly ambiguous as John, as the film's nature transforms his seemingly innocuous demeanor into something to be suspicious of.
The deliberate pace set up by The Redeeming works to the benefit of its more action-oriented third act, ramping up the intensity by comparison after two acts of slow-boiling suspense. Even viewers who might have the film's reveal figured out for themselves will enjoy the thrilling ride that leads up to that reveal. And the ultimate conclusion is the film at its emotional peak, and closes the story on a satisfying note, even as the sense of tragedy regarding the film's circumstances lingers. This conclusion goes to a dark place that is sure to hit a good number of viewers at their emotional core, allowing The Redeeming to be memorable despite having a pace that doesn't lend itself to high-scale, impression-making moments.
Deliberately paced plots are often times tricky to do without becoming boring to a viewer, but The Redeeming crafts its plot to remain interesting throughout its slow boil. It also contains a pair of strong actors to bolster its plot, with Wood and Wichert playing strongly off each other during their extended conversational scenes, and keeping an ambiguous air about their characters throughout the film to keep the film's mystery alive. I can see those who normally dislike films of this pace enjoying The Redeeming simply for the strong acting and intriguing mystery, and mystery fans will definitely enjoy the suspenseful puzzle this film provides to them to try and solve.
Score: 9 out of 10 fireplace pokers.