“Earwig” is so abstract that it seems like its sole reason for existence is to be weird. I normally gravitate towards highly-conceptual, audience-polarizing films, but this one is so strange and so ambiguous that it’s more maddening than anything else.

The plot stretches the outer limits of the macabre. In a bleak European apartment, a young girl (Romane Hemelaers) is forced to undergo oral surgery every morning as her caretaker Albert (Paul Hilton) removes and replaces her melted ice cube teeth with fresh ones. It’s not for the squeamish, nor for literal-minded filmgoers who want to know why.

The film is an observational experience with very little dialogue. Director Lucile Hadzihalilovic shows but doesn’t tell, which can be frustrating. Everything has an unsettling, dreamlike state that’s crafted with the intent to disturb. The overly dark, shadowy lighting really sets the tone, and the cinematography is appropriately haunting. A strong sense of dread permeates every frame.

The more memorable aspects of the film occur when the man is instructed to take the girl out of the apartment and travel to a new destination. The journey is just as strange, however, making “Earwig” an acquired taste for a select few.

This film was screened for review at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

By: Louisa Moore

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