Film / TV

Talk To Me – A Study on Grief

October 13, 2023

For their directorial debut, twin siblings Danny and Michael Philippou present Talk To Me. The trailer for A24’s highest grossing horror, doesn’t reveal much beyond a simple premise – a group of teenagers talking to spirits through an embalmed hand. It’s made clear early on that communing with the dead involves a brief moment of possession that cannot surpass 90 seconds otherwise ‘they’ll wanna stay.’ Personally, I’m confused by the allure of possession – I firmly believe there are things that shouldn’t be toyed with and playing with spirits is one of them. There’s a moment wherein the character Joss, mentions ‘this some white people shit’, before also partaking in this alleged white activity. Part of my curiosity with the film was why this? What is it about the rush of possession, akin to a drug high, that’s drawing these kids in? The answer lies in the main character, Mia, played by Sophie Wilde. The trailer does very well to mask the appeal for Mia. In the opening moments of the film, we realize on her second anniversary, Mia is still reeling from the loss of her mother – an overdose Mia believes to be accidental – and has grown distant from her father. She finds solace in the surrogate family of her best friend. From this, Talk To Me makes its mark as an exploration of isolation and grief. 

Portrayals of Black girlhood span years, genres, mediums and age groups, recognizing the stacked path from girlhood to womanhood. These girls we encounter are more than just good or bad but also a secret third thing. Mia joins these ranks and is one such example of how grief and loneliness can drive us to the places we fear the most. For Mia, she is plagued by the death of her mother, a seemingly close bond encompassing a wave of kinship that’s otherwise absent with her father. Engaging with the unknown becomes exhilarating and something to pull her attention away from the grief she’s experiencing. It takes her mind off this recurring dream she has where she finds herself alone and forgotten. This is in no way an excuse for her behavior but it does chart her trajectory across the film’s 95 minute run. 

Because art is a vehicle for multiple messages, the film can also be said to be a depiction of addiction. Mia trades her loneliness for the thrill of something other. As she returns, it becomes a placeholder for her grief and in doing so, she disregards the boundaries of her loved ones and fails to care for the younger people in her life. Here, Wilde works well with the Phillipou brothers delivering an excellent study of grief. In Talk To Me, grief is multidimensional and demands to be felt. Like the wrath of addiction, Mia’s dalliance means she is clued up on the wrenching torture of lost spirits. This portrayal was so visceral and is firmly etched in my mind as the most apt description of Hell. Her grief is compounded by endangering the lives of those she cares about while teetering on the edge of the solace she’s found in a loss she’s still struggling to come to terms with. As such, Mia is extremely reckless. Her need for comfort sees her put her found family at continuous risk. In attempting to rectify it on her own, she ends up isolating herself physically and emotionally from her friends.


I have a lot of love for Talk To Me. I must admit, I did initially struggle in the immediate aftermath with the captivation of the film. What about it has made people rave and rant about it? I was so focused on the jumpscares, expecting to be inconsolably scared that it took me a second to feel the depth of the whole movie. Plus, I would be lying if I said I didn’t cower multiple times throughout its run time. As it stands, Talk To Me is pretty excellent in what it sets out to do and works pretty well as ‘a meditation on the ways that grief can change and consume us.’

Header image photo credit: Matthew Thorne