Movie review

In the fantastical Finnish horror fairy tale “Hatching,” the directorial debut of Hannah Bergholm, a young girl hatches a murderous bird monster out of an egg that she secretly nests in her bed, and that’s not even the scariest part — her perfectionist mommy blogger strikes the truest terror in the film. Like many great monster movies, “Hatching” uses a monster as a metaphor for repressed emotion, and the creature at the center of this film is one of the most uniquely grotesque creations seen on screen in a long time.

The bird monster is the creation of Gustav Hoegen, a renowned animatronics designer with credits on “Star Wars” and “Jurassic World,” and the spindly, large-eyed, goo-covered creature looks and feels like a throwback to the kind of otherworldly monsters from the best ‘70s and ‘80s fantasy films, like “E.T.” or Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth.” The tender yet treacherous relationship that our young heroine develops with it is also similar.

But where did this mysterious egg come from? Our young heroine Tinja (Siiri Solalinna, in her film debut) finds it in the woods outside of her suburban home after a traumatic incident. After a raven crashes into their picture-perfect house, wreaking havoc, Tinja’s mother (Sophia Heikkilä) kills the bird without batting an eye and instructs her daughter to dispose of it in the trash. But the screams of the reanimated animal summon the girl outside that night. She finishes the job, beating it to a pulp, and assuages her guilt by taking home the large, speckled egg she discovers nearby.

She nests the egg in her bed, a secret that’s hers alone and cannot be mined for content for her mother’s blog, “Lovely Everyday Life.” It’s a secret that isn’t nitpicked or criticized, like her gymnastics practice, where her mother acts as a stage mom, pushing her daughter to perfection. When the egg grows huge and out hatches a giant, black, bird humanoid, Tinja’s maternal instincts kick in. She names her new friend Alli, after a lullaby her mother sings, and Alli, in turn, seeks to protect and care for Tinja the only way she knows how: by attacking those she sees as Tinja’s enemies.

The script, by Ilja Rautsi, is a classic monster movie, using Alli as an external representation of Tinja’s repressed emotions. All of her anxieties, fears and jealousies become the impulses that Alli acts upon. And as they grow closer, the two become true doubles, doppelgängers, becoming more physically alike and psychically linked. The way her “offspring” Alli absorbs her anxieties reflects the way Tinja’s own mother has raised her, reinforcing her own toxic perfectionism on her child.

The monster metaphor is plainly laid out in “Hatching,” but crucially, the film resists overexplaining, allowing details to remain mysterious, implying and suggesting and allowing the viewer to speculate and imagine.


“Hatching” hinges on the performance from Solalinna and the creature effects of the bird monster. Hoegen’s work is remarkable, with Alli both monstrous and strangely human. But Solalinna is a wonder, delivering compelling performances both as the terrified Tinja and, later, as the feral Alli, as she becomes more and more like her “mother” Tinja, the two nearly identical.

Bergholm crafts a richly designed film with a visual style that is an integral element of the storytelling. Tinja’s family home, optimized for social media content, designed in white, gold, pink and aggressive floral wallpaper, becomes a surreal and scary space. The costume design serves to connect the family in gendered pairings, but also situates Tinja as different from her peers, clad in white eyelet dresses while the other girls wear jeans. Mother’s signature frilly pink frocks and gold heels are the picture of manicured femininity, but all of these adornments are mere cover for the darkness within them all.

“Hatching” imagines and externalizes what that internal darkness might look like, might act like, and offers a contemporary cautionary tale about social-media-style aesthetics and performance, as well as the psychology of parenting, in this imaginative modern-day fable.

“Hatching” ★★★ (out of four)

With Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä. Directed by Hannah Bergholm, from a screenplay by Ilja Rautsi. 87 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In Finnish, with English subtitles. Opens April 28 at multiple theaters.