The Winter Lake
In a perfect example of how to make the Irish countryside look cold, bleak and dreary, director Phil Sheerin’s The Winter Lake tells a compelling story of loss, social manipulation and psychological suffering, informing the world that the past cannot be submerged in a pool of lies without them eventually rising to the surface.
Through the vessel of a small yet talented British cast, Sheerin’s character-study drama tells the tale of Tom (Anson Boon) and his mother Elaine (Charlie Murphy), who both have a secret to hide, but in the local village they are not the only ones. An extreme introvert who is emotionally unstable and with a violent streak, Tom is befriended by his enigmatic neighbour Holly (Emma Mackey) who clearly has her own things to conceal. As the two grow closer and Tom’s curiosity builds, he soon accidentally discovers a life-changing cover up that will lead him into the crossfire of those who will do anything to keep it hidden and down a path far darker than he could imagine.
For the best part of half the film’s runtime the viewer is left wondering what the premise and direction of the plot truly is, with the initial glimpses of a reveal only appearing after a considerable amount of set-up and numerous clips that provide little to the wider narrative. A lot of the dialogue is ambiguous and intriguing – exploring family relationships and the events of time-gone-by – and in some scenes it proves more valuable than in others.
Likewise, some on-screen partnerships are more dynamic than others. Emma Mackey is incredibly endearing in her performance as the multifarious Holly, revealing her character’s deepest secrets and troubled past through depictions of sensitivity and emotional exchanges with her father, played by Michael McElhatton. The two actors take control of the more exciting parts when others feel flat and laboured, injecting a sense of peril and drama into a plot that at moments lacks the drive to propel itself forward. Most of this blame and success ultimately falls at the door of the writers, who at times have crafted scenes of intensity and engrossing exchanges, only to then give off the impression of laziness with on-the-nose dialogue.
With Mackey’s performance leaving the viewer on edge throughout – raising questions over who you can actually trust in this twisted narrative – The Winter Lake insidiously journeys deep into the murky darkness that follows lives filled with deceit and shuttered windows. The predictability of its storyline harms the movie’s overall stamina, but thanks to some enticing performances from the main cast, it makes for uncomfortable and absorbing watch as the rain patters down, washing every ounce of honesty off the shoulders of the community.
The Winter Lake is released digitally on demand on 15th March 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Winter Lake here: