Saturday 22 April 2023

Movie Review: Dark River (2017)

Genre: Drama
Director: Clio Barnard
Starring: Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley
Running Time: 89 minutes

Synopsis: In rural Yorkshire, England, sheep shearer Alice (Ruth Wilson) learns that her father Richard (Sean Bean) has died. She returns to her family farm after a 15 year absence, triggering flashbacks of the sexual abuse she suffered as a young girl. Now she clashes with her erratic brother Joe (Mark Stanley), who is struggling to operate the rundown farm, while the landowners plot a sale.

What Works Well: A sense of emotional foreboding settles like a thick fog on Alice's present, as flashbacks reveal her nightmare of a past. Ruth Wilson sinks into the role with the subdued anguish of a compromised existence struggling to course-correct towards any kind of better future. The song Acre of Land by PJ Harvey and Harry Escott is hauntingly beautiful.

What Does Not Work As Well: This is a slow-paced and sparsely plotted exercise in brooding. Not much happens for long stretches, and director Clio Barnard invests inordinate time capturing muddy northern England aesthetics. The dynamic between Alice and Joe never settles, the supporting characters are perfunctory, and the final act surrenders to clumsiness.

Conclusion: An emotional and experiential slog.

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