Natalie Erika James’ ‘Relic’ reigns in the US as Mark Lamprell’s ‘Never Too Late’ opens

‘Relic’s’ Robyn Nevin with Natalie Erika James.

Natalie Erika James’ Relic continued its reign as the top title in its second weekend in the fractured US theatrical market while Mark Lamprell’s Never Too Late launched on a combination of virtual cinemas and hard tops.

Released by IFC Midnight, the psychological horror movie co-scripted by James and Christian White, rang up $US192,000 in its first weekend at 69 drive-ins: the biggest opening weekend in almost three months.

Last weekend the haunted house movie featuring Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin and Bella Heathcote expanded to 126 locations, generating $US236,000, which brings the 10-day total to $US581,000, according to Box Office Mojo.

Produced by Carver Films’ Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw with Nine Stories Productions’ Jake Gyllenhaal and Riva Marker, Relic premiered on Stan on July 10 as a Stan Original.

The US distributor Blue Fox Entertainment launched Never Too Late in 15 hard tops plus virtual screenings in 19 towns in such States as California, Florida, Virginia, New York, Utah and North Carolina where cinemas are closed. No figures were available.

The comedy drama stars Jack Thompson, James Cromwell, Dennis Waterman and Roy Billing as Vietnam veterans who plan to break out of their nursing home so Cromwell’s character can reunite with his long-lost love played by Jacki Weaver. It will be available on VOD in North America on August 14.

Scripted by Luke Preston and produced by Antony I. Ginnane and David Lightfoot, the film screened in Adelaide on Sunday afternoon at the Palace Nova, Glenelg GU Film House and Wallis Cinemas in Mitcham, Noarlunga and Mt Barker as part of the pop-up Adelaide Film Festival.

‘Never Too Late’ (Photo credit: Bradley Patrick).

Robert Slaviero and Richard Becker’s R&R Films will release the film co-funded by Screen Australia and the South Australian Film Corporation in October.

The US reviews for both releases were overwhelmingly positive. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers hailed Relic as an auspicious debut for the Japanese-Australian director “who wants her slow-building thriller to seep into your bones rather than pound you with cheap scares.”

Travers opined: “There’s no doubt why Jake Gyllenhaal and the Russo brothers wanted to come in on the producing side. James, showing the rare ability to shape horror to reveal elemental truths about the human condition, is a major filmmaker in the making…her movie messes with your head long after you turn out the lights.”

The Los Angeles Times’ Geoff Berkshire declared that James stages one of the more eerily unforgettable closing moments in recent memory and Robyn Nevin is the standout of a very fine trio, with a deeply felt performance that’s both heartbreaking and horrifying.

Variety’s Lisa Kennedy found that while Never Too Late goes for a “few too many old-folk chuckles,” Cromwell and Weaver give grounded performances as the star-crossed pair and she lauded Peter Falk’s cinematography.

Film Threat’s Alan Ng responded to a “feel-good message movie featuring four men and a woman all needing to resolve something meaningful in their lives.”

Ng observed: “It does get a little sappy without a hint of darkness at all. By the end, every plotline is wrapped up nicely with a pretty bow.

“As you dig deeper into the film’s bigger picture, you’ll also feel frustrated at how our seniors, particularly veterans, are treated and discarded into homes hidden out of sight. There has to be a better way.”