‘Rounding’ (Tribeca 2022) Review: “This Attempt at a Psychological Horror is Dragged Down by a Middling Execution”

Throughout the past couple years, there are multiple films that attempt to hide themselves as horror movies which only go on to fail at providing any scares for the audience at all. In the follow up to his feature debut Saint Frances, Alex Thompson attempts to provide scares for the audience in Rounding, but unfortunately, his psychological horror, as it is described on the Tribeca 2022 listing page, barely scratches the surface of a psychological thriller. Rather, it only provides the audience with a rather empty score with underdeveloped characters and its centre.

Rounding focuses on James (Namir Smallwood), a doctor who transfers to a rural hospital following a traumatic experience at his previous hospital that led to a nervous breakdown. There, he’s chastised for not being personal enough with his patients, but then he becomes obsessed with Helen (Sidney Flanigan), a patient with chronic asthma whom James believes there’s more to than meets the eye. The entire film tries to masquerade itself as a psychological thriller, showing James’ mental state deteriorating as he gets more and more involved in Helen’s case and his mental and physical health both begin to decline. As the film unfolds, there are details revealed about James’ personal life that add minutely to the plot and James as a character, but he’s mostly underdeveloped and not characterized enough to allow the audience to get to know him and care for his struggles. 

The overall plot of the film is weak with Flanigan being terribly underused as an actress. Following up from Never Rarely Sometimes Always, she wasn’t given nearly enough to do and the way her character’s arc ends leaves you unsatisfied and with more questions than answers. She’s certainly good in the little ways her character was explored, but she’s not given nearly enough development or exploration for a character who seemed so interesting. Smallwood was great despite the little character exploration for James, with great monologues and emotional highs and lows for him. Considering this was a first time role for him, he did a fantastic job in the little examination the film did into James’ trauma’s from the beginning of the film. 

As a psychological thriller/horror film, this does not cut it. Though the film certainly delivered tension in several of its scenes, the horror elements failed to elevate the story as there were hallucinations that weren’t properly used and terribly designed creatures that seemed to serve no purpose. There was enough tension built from other sources in James’ life and within the film that the other elements seemed pointless and added very little to the overall film other than to make it a ‘proper horror film’. However, this film certainly shows promise, despite the fact that  the ideas are interesting but not executed enough, and Thompson doesn’t give his actors enough to do, nor does he go in depth about the characters enough. Between this and Saint Frances, which I was lower on than most people, but it was a fairly good directorial debut, one can only remain interested to see what Thompson does next, but also only hope he expands on his story and characters more than the genre itself.

SCORE: 6/10
Awards Prospects: None

You can find me rambling on Twitter or chilling on Letterboxd!

Information

Director: Alex Thompson
Writer: Alex Thompson, Christopher Thompson
DP: Nate Hurtsellers
Composer: Macie Stewart, Quinn Tsan
Length: 90 minutes

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