Marisa Tomei has always been one of my favorite actresses. With that pretty face, gorgeous red hair, and animated spirit, she should be one of America's biggest stars. She's won an Oscar, for goodness' sake, so no one can doubt her acting abilities. Why, then, does it seem like such a rare treat to actually see her play the central role in a film? The woman is fabulous in Danika. Say what you like about the story (it's one of those psychological thrillers, so audience reaction will inevitably be somewhat divided), but Marisa Tomei turns in a gripping, very believable performance.
Every parent (well, every good parent, anyway) wants desperately to protect his/her family, especially the children, so in this respect Danika (Tomei) is basically no different than the vast majority of wives and mothers in the world. All of a sudden, though, her life has taken a turn toward the surreal. She begins having awful visions which lead her to seek psychiatric help after what can only be described as a psychotic episode at work. Not only does she see awful things happening to her husband and kids, she also has psychic-like visions of other kids dying in horrible ways, and these things come about in such a way that she feels as if she could have saved them. This leads her to become ever more obsessive in terms of protecting her own family, and we all know how teens and pre-teens react to overprotective mothers. A lesser actress couldn't have played this role effectively, as the story is surreal and sometimes confusing as the tension builds toward a pretty powerful conclusion.
As with all psychological thrillers, the proof of the pudding is ultimately in the ending. It is possible to figure out, to some degree, what is really going on here - I picked up on it from the preview alone, although I didn't predict the final machination of the emotional climax - but I don't think it matters much whether you figure things out on your own or not. The emotional power of the final minutes is not to be denied, and the whole movie leaves you with plenty of food for thought. It's the kind of ending that viewers will want to discuss with one another after the fact, and I think that is a sign of the story's ultimate effectiveness. Any movie in this genre is going to draw one-star reviews from those who claim not to get it, but I think the majority of viewers will find this movie spellbinding and emotionally jarring.