The Desperate Hour
Written by Buried and Greenland screenwriter Chris Sparling, The Desperate Hour (also known as Lakewood) presents audiences with an intriguing premise that strives to make a large impact with its admirable small-scale presentation. Despite the good intentions and noble message behind the script, however, the narrative eventually goes off the rails, while simultaneously failing to spark an appropriate discussion surrounding its topical themes.
Unfolding in real time, the plot sees suburban mother of two Amy (Naomi Watts) start her day by going for a run in the woods. It’s business as usual as she makes several calls to organise the rest of the day, the serene cinematography and calming music from her phone inviting viewers to relax. But the tranquillity doesn’t last long: Amy soon receives the shocking news that there’s an active shooting going on at her son’s (Colton Gobbo) high school. With no means of transport to reach the school, Amy has no choice but to run there, her phone being her sole means of acquiring information as the event escalates.
Watts is fantastic as ever in the leading role. She is the only character onscreen for most of the runtime and the sole source of much of the ensuing drama. The actor is pitch-perfect in her performance, effortlessly conveying the fear and anxiety of a character who may have to face a grim truth. The small-scale telling of this major incident is what makes The Desperate Hour initially captivating. However, the script eventually runs out of places to go with its ideas and begins to reach into new territory. And it’s here where things get messy.
Towards the midway point, Desperate Hour abruptly shifts gears into an investigative thriller for the sake of creating more drama, which comes at the cost of its verisimilitude: sensible characters make wildly irresponsible decisions, which is enough to break immersion. Likewise, the film doesn’t seem to have anything worthwhile to say about its harrowing subject matter other than derivative platitudes. This feels like a massive missed opportunity to dig deeper into issues of mental illness and grief – topics that the writer briefly tiptoes past.
Watts is excellent in The Desperate Hour. Sadly, the script is unable to back up its engaging central concept with meaningful substance.
The Desperate Hour is released on Sky on 25th February 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Desperate Hour here: