Hatching (2022) – Movie Review

Hatching, 2022.

Directed by Hanna Bergholm.
Starring Jani Volanen, Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Saija Lentonen, Reino Nordin, and Oiva Ollila.


A young gymnast who tries desperately to please her demanding mother discovers a strange egg. She hides it and keeps it warm, but when it hatches, what emerges shocks them all.

The horror genre has time and time again proven itself a potent vessel through which to examine familial anxieties, yet far away from the corridors of more subdued, artsy horror – don’t call it “elevated” – we have the unapologetically splashy stylings of Finnish filmmaker Hanna Bergholm’s feature debut Hatching.

Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) is a lonely young gymnast who has to contend with her mother’s (Sophia Heikkilä) obnoxious commitment to chronicling the family’s “idyllic” day-to-day life for her popular blog, and the inattention of her passive father (Jani Volanen).

Everything changes, however, when Tinja discovers a wounded bird in the nearby woods, and after mercy-killing it with a rock, spots a single egg in the bird’s nest. Tinja brings the egg home and surreptitiously nurtures it, before one of her tears splashes onto the egg shell and seemingly kickstarts an uncanny transformation. The resulting hatched creature, Alli, becomes the object of Tinja’s own maternal instincts, the implications of which quickly become horrifyingly twisted.

This is an at-once amusing and grotesque film that splits the difference between a bodily fluids-splashed horror romp and provocative satire of family rituals and motherhood. From its opening moments, Tinja’s home life appears to be a soul-crushing suburban nightmare, herself and her asshole brother basically bred as little facsimiles of their parents to be shown off on social media.

Far away from the veneer of Instagram posturing, Tinja’s mother is cheating on her hubby with a handsome handyman, her father is far more interested in playing his guitars than paying his daughter attention, and she’s expected to keep plugging away at gymnastics despite clearly lacking the enthusiasm for it.

Given that within the film’s first few scenes we’ve seen both mother and daughter each mercy-kill a bird, it’s fitting that Hatching is so innately concerned with the sins of the mother – whether one human raising her biological daughter or, in Tinja’s case, a human surrogate caring for the bird-creature she inadvertently created.

Seeing Tinja nurture Alli is at once funny and oddly sweet; bathing it and singing to it, she seemingly gives it the attention she wishes her mother gave her. Though as Tinja soon enough realises, caring for another living thing is no picnic, especially when you’re dealing with an animal with an appetite for the neighbourhood’s pets. The horrific picture of maternal sacrifice is literalised in stomach-churning terms when, in two separate scenes, Alli chows down on her surrogate mother’s vomit.

Tinja and Alli are each seeking the other’s approval, driven to do whatever they can to aid the other, externalised by a psychic link Tinja and Alli share, where the pain of one is felt by the other. This link is especially important for one later plot development, which in its cleverness may well leave you howling with laughter while also wincing through splayed fingers.

Director Bergholm clearly has an eye for evocatively unsettling imagery; right from the opening shot of Tinja’s spine contorting outwards while stretching for gymnastics, there’s a sure fixation on the anatomical, which is only heightened once Alli is introduced.

Bergholm skillfully braces her film between the schlock-riddled potential of its premise and the rich thematics, with potent character work underlined by wonderfully revolting practical creature effects. In her proto-bird form, Alli has huge, expressive eyes that are puppeteered to perfection, such that when Tinja sings her to sleep, we even see Alli’s eyes gradually close with tactile persuasiveness. For a horror joint working on a budget, it’s impressive stuff, melded with some CGI enhancements and fittingly bestial sound effects to polish things off.

Yet Bergholm isn’t interested in simply letting the insane creature feature aspect wrestle control away from the human drama, mooring her film at all times around the exemplary central performance of young first-time actress Siiri Solalinna.

Whether smiling through gritted teeth as her mother outlines her latest betrayal or committing to the more physically rigorous particulars of the central conflict, it’d be a tricky performance for an adult to pull off, let alone a child; she has to go to some tough places, and knocks it out of the park. As her most common scene partner, Sophia Heikkilä is also perfectly cast as the overbearing, hilariously insincere mother.

The follow-through may not be quite as sharp as the compulsively compelling setup, but Bergholm has the good sense to appreciate the limitations of her concept and, at a mere 86 minutes, wrap things up before it can outstay its welcome. Doubling as gooey gross-out body-horror and satirical portrait of familial rot, Hatching passes nimble commentary on the anguish of motherhood while marking strong debuts for both director Hanna Bergholm and young lead Siiri Solalinna.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.


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