As a producer, Aja explains he first looks for a story with a real heart because spectacle and action mean little without it. Starring Sarah Wayne Callies as Maria, the grieving mother, begins to lose touch with rationality and turns towards unconventional and ultimately horrific measures to deal with her loss. “When the supernatural is the only solution in her life, Maria decides to try it,” says writer Riera. “She thinks the supernatural is superior to any of her previous coping mechanisms and will change her life forever.”
“By exploring these supernatural elements, Maria is opening a Pandora’s box she cannot close,” adds Callies. “She goes down a slippery slope that is both understandable and frightening to watch. Maria cannot accept her son’s death. She believes she has this chance of talking to him one last time, so she tries to get in touch with his spirit, and that ruins her life.”
Prior to these devastating events, work had brought Maria’s husband Michael to India, and the couple decided that they loved it so much, they wanted to start a family there. Jeremy Sisto, who portrays Michael, researched the reasons some couples chose to live abroad, and notes, “Sarah and I talked about what it means to be an expat, to choose to live in a culture that’s completely different from your own, speaking a language you didn’t grow up with, and where you really stand out.”
The element of surprise was an experience to which both actors could relate. “Michael and Maria loved waking up and not knowing what they were going to experience on a given day,” Sisto explains. “It takes a real sense of adventure and courage for them to adapt to a new lifestyle,” adds Callies. “One thing that really struck me being in India was that I was so conspicuous.”
After Maria and Michael’s eight-year-old son Oliver dies tragically in a car accident, the boy returns to the world of the living, but in an altered form. His reappearance affects everyone in the family, including his sister, Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky). “Lucy is put at risk by Oliver’s return,” says Riera. “She’s the first person to get in touch with Oliver once he’s back, because she’s a child and believes in the supernatural more readily.”
Indian actress Suchitra Pillai plays Piki, the family’s stern but maternal housekeeper. She notes that Piki, like Maria, lost a child. “She gives Maria hope about making peace with the loss of her son,” says Pillai. “What’s fascinating is how their relationship evolves, and Piki tells Maria something unbelievably audacious, which is ‘I think you should visit this temple and speak to your son one last time, to heal your grief,’” says Callies. “From that moment on Piki possesses the authority and power in that relationship, and it’s a really interesting change that happens. There is a connection when Maria learns that Piki lost a child and has navigated that grief. It’s a fascinating relationship to me because there are all these switches in power, but it also creates a sisterhood between them.”
“The Other Side of the Door” opens February 24 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.
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