The Winter Lake review – a damp Irish mystery | Film

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A strong setup is constrained by limited resources – financial and possibly creative –in this gloomy thriller set in damp rural Ireland. The story begins on a macabre note: gangly, troubled teenager Tom (Anson Boon) discovers a sack in a shallow lake containing the bones of a human baby. The lake is on the land of the rundown farmhouse he has just moved into with his mother, Elaine (Charlie Murphy), who looks young enough to be his sister. They clearly have their own baggage: Tom’s past behaviour is blamed for their relocation.

The fresh start turns even sourer when they meet their nearest neighbours: grizzled farmer Ward (Michael McElhatton) and his teenage daughter Holly played by Emma Mackey, star of teen series Sex Education; she holds her own with the Irish accent, but this does little more for her CV. They, too, have their family baggage, it soon transpires. Tom’s mother is at first flirtatious with Ward, inviting him in for a whiskey at the first opportunity. Holly strikes up a parallel friendship with Tom, despite the fact he is withdrawn to the point of being almost mute. Her ulterior motives are not difficult to fathom after she spots the sack of bones in his possession.

But then nobody is really being truthful in this claustrophobic situation, which allows in little in the way of trust or genuine affection. Things start off sombre and get darker, literally as well as tonally. The crisp cinematography and eerie score build up some tension, but with so few principal characters, the mystery of the baby is not difficult to solve, and a few too many plot contrivances lead to an anticlimactic resolution. There’s promise here but also perhaps some uncertainty: ultimately it falls between the stools of realist rural drama and full-on horror.

The Winter Lake is released on 15 March on digital platforms.

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Source: The Guardian
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