A BlueFinch Film, Written by David Turpin, Directed by Phil Sheerin.
When an unstable neighbour discovers a young woman’s dark secret, they get pulled into a violent confrontation with her father, who will do anything to keep it hidden. The Winter Lake comes from director Phil Sheerin and stars Anson Boon, Emma Mackey, Charlie Murphy, and Michael McElhatton.
After moving to a new place, mother Elaine (Charlie Murphy) and troubled son Tom (Anson Boon) quickly cross paths with Ward (Michael McElhatton) and his daughter Holly (Emma Mackey). Quickly the relationships between the characters become complicated and entangled, quickly heading down dark paths that will change the lives of all involved.
The first half of the film is quite slow and character focused, specifically on Tom, and his mental state and interactions with other characters. It takes a slow approach and seems to be building towards a twist, and when the twist comes, the film starts to go downhill. It quickly becomes an overly dark and simply cliched and unrealistic thriller, and throws away much of the earned goodwill.
It is far from a bad film, but it is held back constantly by a weak script and a stream of cliches that creep into the film, and it is something the film can’t escape. From the outset, it establishes a dark and gritty tone, which it sticks to despite the questionable accents that threaten to take you out of it, but tone cannot be enough in itself.
The film toys with the idea of being a full-blown dark horror, instead of a disturbing drama, but it never commits. This is a shame as the film and its story is much more suited to that genre and it could’ve produced much more interesting results.
One of the main issues is how tough to engage with and unlikeable the lead character of Tom is, and it never improves throughout. It isn’t a complaint to be laid at the door of the actor Anson Boon, but more at the writing and directing. The film, and specifically the story of parenting and abuse that is being told, would’ve been much better served by focusing on either Tom’s mother Elaine and her story, or on Holly, and the horrors she has suffered and wants to escape.
As for Holly, it is her who the audience is drawn to most and that is due to Emma Mackey, in her film debut. She has shown what a remarkable young actress she is with her role in Sex Education (2019), and while she is the best thing here, she does still feel wasted and she clearly could’ve got a lot more out of this role with better writing and more focus on her.
Overall, this film felt like it had all the materials there to be a really good and dark thriller, but in the end, it falls wide of the mark due to unengaging characters and a weak script. Worth watching if you are an Emma Mackey fan who wants to see her feature film debut, and where that is going to lead to with the likes of Eiffel and Nell already in the works for her.
Rating = 2.5/5