A toxic relationship like no other.

“Sanctuary” is a movie that had me thinking long after it was over. I wasn’t sure what the dominatrix wanted or why she was torturing her client, and their concepts of power and leadership is too big for my mind. But it has the right actors to bring out the best and worst qualities of their characters. And I don’t mean “worst” as a critical insult. I mean in their choices.

Christopher Abbot plays a wealthy young man named Hal, whose father passed away, and is now the heir to his hotel empire. And Margaret Qualley plays his long time dominatrix, who gives him the rules on how their sexual pleasures will play out.

He’s not supposed to cum without her permission, he has to clean the bathroom, which already looks clean, and she has to insult him with words like “lazy” and the “R” word that rhymes with started.

Then, they have their room service and talk outside the script he gives her.

He decides to call it quits with their relationship, because of his image for the company. He wants to be seen as “a person who wins.”

She comes back to his room, telling him she taught him the confidence of running a company, and she wants half of his first year salary. He responds: by telling her she taught him nothing, and he wrote their script. And she responds with her sinister words and sex.

Then, he agrees to her terms, and drags her back to the room, when she doesn’t keep her promise of letting whatever game she is playing go.

Sounds like some kind of a spoiler alert, but this basically becomes a pattern for them. The more he pushes her away, the more manipulative she gets.

Qualley is the daughter of Andie MacDowell, who was also great in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” She really does have her mother in her, not only because of her hair, but also because of her attitude. I was insulted when she dropped that autistic slur on her client and I was annoyed when she has to act like a bratty version of Carey Mulligan in “Promising Young Woman,” but she does have what it takes to play an evil woman. At least I think she’s evil the way she manipulates him. At least I think she’s manipulating him.

Abbot has good taste in artisan features, and he has good tastes here. He knows how to play a coward who is struggling to get out of the girl’s manipulations. Is he under her spell or is he under some kind of stress regarding the circumstances before he calls it quits with her? So many questions, and it all leaves us pondering.

“Sanctuary” is directed with eroticism and dangers by Zachary Wigon and written with complications by Micha Bloomberg (“Homecoming”). With only two actors in the cast, it feels like something out of a broadway play, especially since it takes place in the same hotel room and the same elevator. This is one of those films that has you talking and thinking about the decisions and characters presented here. It can be confusing on who the dominant one is and who the weak on is, based on how they trade their words and anger, but it can also keep you guessing.

See where this erotic playtime is heading into.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Now Playing in New York and Los Angeles.

Categories: Drama, Thriller

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