Paris Zarcilla pulls off an impressive balancing act in his full-feature debut. Raging Grace is equal parts thriller, drama, and mystery, sprinkled with touches of horror and the result is an engaging story fueled by emotional layering to effectively captivate. This story centers on an undocumented Filipina immigrant named Joy (Max Eigenmann) who makes ends meet by sleeping in the houses of the clients she cleans for. She’s trying to save enough money to get her green card, and she also has a lively young daughter Grace (Jaeden Paige Boadilla) to care for. Joy gets a job caring for a sick elderly man in a massive home but soon learns there are many dark secrets looming in this home that will threaten the life she is trying to build for her and Grace.
Immediately what stuck out to me about this movie was how it was able to infuse an exploration of class structure and immigration into this story with a natural purpose. Zarcilla’s writing is able to blend this collection of subplots into one fluid narrative while still give it a strong flow and constant focus. Joy is bouncing from home to home. She’s living the struggle and holding her head high. Her perseverance is consuming, and it will have you in her corner as she gets this job in an old castle of a home. She’s put down and belittled by her boss Katherine (Leanne Best) and admittedly this set-up does come with a collection of familiar tropes.
Because the framework of Raging Grace is built from used genre elements. But Zarcilla brings more than enough unique elements of substance to create something fresh and engaging. When Joy moves into this home the tension of her hiding Grace delivers natural tension. Young Grace is a prankster, and this is able to sprinkle in nicely timed doses of levity to break the mood. All the while you have the seeds being planted inside this home that something much darker is at play. So, Raging Grace is successful in engulfing the senses and building an emotional connection to its characters.
The mystery escalates and as Joy ultimately learns more about this family she’s caring for, the collision of plotlines does feel like a satisfying closing. The middle of the film admittedly does drag a bit. I think certain scenes could have been tightened up just a bit. As it is, some of the energy built from the turn in this story is slightly lost by the time the horror escalates. Horror that is grounded because of theming and concept. There are some plot holes as well, and this escalation in the story does happen slightly abruptly. However, the total package of this movie is one that can have you on edge. It’s well acted, filled with plenty of creative elements, while also blending genres nicely, and Zarcilla crafts a thought-provoking winner with his debut.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.