Rather than turning personal trauma into triumph, screenwriters Patricia Beauchamp and Joe Gossett (both still a bit wet behind their Hollywood ears) delve into clipped melodrama. There's no reason to care about the characters onscreen. Every person is a trope meant to squeeze out even the smallest iotas of sympathy. Yet the work being done onscreen deserves none of it. Moreover, using rape as a device and then exploring the psychological implications of it in its simplest parameters is inherently insulting rather that redeeming here. From weak material springs weak performances. Pike comes across as jittery and overeager.
The placid, conniving, revenge-driven mastermind she constructed in Gone Girl is reduced here to its basest equivalent and regurgitated for the masses. Fernandez is a one-note criminal who seems unsure whether he wants to really sink into his role or not. Nick Nolte's turn as Miranda's father may be the one bright spot amidst all this commotion, but unfortunately his endearment comes at the expense of a ravaged daughter and a dead dog. Pity. A word to the wise: save time when pondering if this film is worth the watch. There is nothing that can save it, not even the star quality of Rosamund Pike herself. If only Return to Sender could itself be sent right back to the studio from whence it came.
Allie Gemmill | @alliegem