Elizabeth (Abbey Lee) is the young beautiful, newly married wife, of billionaire Henry (Ciarán Hinds). He takes her to his sprawling, modern, mansion, located in a remote and mountainous region. There, she meets his son, who is blind, Oliver (Matthew Beard) and his housekeeper, Claire (Carla Gugino).
Henry shows the impressionable Elizabeth around the very impressive home, the rooms accessed by biometric thumbprint scanners. He tells her that it is now her home as well as his and that she is free to go wherever she wants with the exception of one room.
The next day, Henry tells her that he will be away on business for a day. Left alone in the vast house, Elizabeth tries to amuse herself and explores the house. As night falls, she sees Oliver and Claire taking a walk in the grounds. She is totally alone in the house. Curiosity gets the better of her and she goes into the room Henry asked her not to go into.
In the room she comes across a clone of herself and freaks out, running from the room. The next day, Henry has returned and Elizabeth cannot hide her disquiet at what she has seen, though she does not say anything. Henry acts a little odd, speaking cryptically throughout the day. As night falls the two are in bed. Henry gets up, leaving the bed. A nervous Elizabeth gets up to see where he is going.
Henry appears before her. He has a large cutlass. He tells her that he knows that she went into the room. Elizabeth tries to flee. He catches up with her and kills her. The next morning, he, Claire and Oliver, bury her in the grounds. Claire is not happy about the situation, discussing it as they sit down to breakfast. It is obvious that it has happened before.
Local policeman, Logan (Dylan Baker), comes to see Henry. They have a history and Logan comes to tell him that he is under some scrutiny at work, with colleagues being pitted against one another. Claire is in her room writing in her journal. Oliver comes and interrupts her with a bouquet of flowers. They have a brief exchange and then he leaves her alone.
Six weeks later, Henry is carrying Elizabeth over the threshold of his home once more, introducing her to Claire and Oliver again. Showing her around the home again and warning her not to enter the room again. Elizabeth is different this time around. She is still curious but seems more worldly. Henry leaves again, repeating the pattern. Elizabeth discovers a clone again, but this time she leaves the room open as she flees.
The clone wakes up and roams the house. She finds Elizabeth sleeping. Henry returns the next day. He wakes Elizabeth up. It is midday. He wastes no time in confronting her about entering the room and tries to strangle her. Elizabeth fights him off and runs. She takes up refuge in the kitchen, grabbing a couple of kitchen knives.
Meanwhile, Henry has gotten some Halothane, an anaesthetic, and soaked a cloth with it. He grabs her and puts the cloth over her face. Elizabeth goes limp and he thinks she is unconscious. She stabs him in the back, killing him. When she recovers from the effects of the Halothane, she tries to leave the house. None of the locks work, not even for Henry’s fingerprint. She tries to call the police but cannot get through properly.
Elizabeth cleans up the blood and hides the body. Claire and Oliver are surprised to see her when they return. Claire is overcome and, with an existing heart condition, collapses. She is taken to the hospital. Oliver stops Elizabeth leaving. He knows she has killed Henry. They burn the body.
Oliver quizzes her about her memories. He tells her that she is a clone. Detective Logan comes to the house again. Oliver tells Elizabeth that she has to get rid of him. As she is talking to him, Oliver shoots him. They burn the body.
Oliver tells Elizabeth to go and pack a bag, so as she can leave. He then locks her in the bedroom with Claire’s journal. He wants to know what is in the journal. Claire has documented the entire history of her encounter with Henry. She was a doctor who the retired billionaire, also a doctor, had invited to come and see her.
His wife, Elizabeth, had died of a rare disease and he had been broken by the grief. He had cloned her in the hope of finding a cure for the condition. That is why he invited Claire to his home. Claire’s curiosity and desire to solve the conundrum caused her to stay with the morally dubious Henry.
Claire had catalogued the evolution of the different Elizabeth’s. The Elizabeth who was reading the journal was the fifth one. Oliver still has her captive and she tries to escape when he brings her some food. He gives her the wrong code. When she returns to find him, he has disappeared. She finds him in the room with clone six. He tricks her again, administering a sedative.
He locks her up again, this time chains her to the bed. He wants her to keep reading, wanting to know if there is anything about him. He tells her that his father blinded him for looking at her when he was young. Claire’s journal says that she believes that Oliver is not Henry’s son but his clone.
Henry showed Claire Oliver’s birth certificate, Elizabeth tells Oliver. Elizabeth fools Oliver and forces him to give her the keys to the chain on her leg. She is about to escape, but Elizabeth six comes into the bedroom and points a gun at her.
Elizabeth stabs Oliver and takes him hostage. Elizabeth six shoots, killing Oliver and wounding Elizabeth. Elizabeth leaves the house but Elizabeth six shoots her again and she collapses, dying. Elizabeth tells her to read the journal.
Elizabeth six finds out that Henry has left everything to Claire, as sort of a deal for her compliance. Claire returns to the house and Elizabeth six leaves. The end.
Elizabeth Harvest – a terrible title – is a visually arresting, slow burner of a film. Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, it is a compelling story of obsession, power and morality. Henry’s misguided attempts to recreate his wife, border on obsession and it is only his vast riches and ego that allow him the scope and hubris to even attempt to do so.
That he should, intrinsically, know that any clone is not actually the woman he loved, to such a degree that he kills four of them without compunction or remorse, makes the obsession even more macabre.
At one hundred and five minutes long, Elizabeth Harvest is not a long film. Having said that, it is a film that needs patience, as the story is not apparent until thirty minutes into the film. With the script being so sparse, the film goes very much with the often-repeated film adage of to ‘show, don’t tell’, with one forced to pay attention to what is going on visually.
Gutierrez’s style is very reminiscent of Alex Garland’s works such as Annihilation and Ex Machina, though he does seem to like oft-kilter camera shots a lot more. Their works are very similar in the approach to story however, with the viewer forced to work for it.
The setting of the house is quite relevant, especially in its stark, clean, modernity. Vast and spartan in design ethic, it reflects the values and nature of those who reside there; the two scientists in Henry and Claire and the strange Oliver. By contrast, Elizabeth, regardless of the version, seems very much out of place, a visitor not a resident.
The acting is good from all the cast. Ciarán Hinds’ Henry is suitably menacing and ego-driven, Matthew Beard’s Oliver, a reticent figure until given freedom by his father’s death. Carla Gugino’s Claire seems initially good until we are shown she is just as complicit in proceedings and weak in the worse way.
Abbey Lee, an obvious model-turned-actor, is brilliant as the much cloned Elizabeth. She is at different times, as different Elizabeth’s, afraid, dizzy, dopey, angry and determined. It truly is a multifaceted performance.
Gutierrez’s direction is good for the most part. There are some indulgent creative flashes and unnecessary shots, but nothing that is so egregious as to detract from proceedings. Elizabeth Harvest is a good-ish film, slightly let down by pacing and artistic indulgence. Having said that. It is worth a look if you like science thrillers.