Review: Dark River

Ruth Wilson in Dark River

Dark River is an intimate family drama that tells a story of trauma, alienation, and tragedy.

Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley star as brother and sister, Alice and Joe. Alice has been gone from the family sheep farm for 15 years when her father (Sean Bean) dies.

Mark Stanley in Dark River

She heads home from a job shearing sheep, thinking the family farm will be hers. Joe has ideas of his own and they clash immediately.

Through flashbacks we see what Alice (Esme Creed-Miles as a child) suffered growing up. We understand why she can’t go in the house, especially upstairs. She has PTSD and going into her childhood home triggers her in a big way. Instead, she lives in a shack meant for seasonal help.

Neither of the siblings can escape from the past.

Alice wants to work the farm. Fix the roof, get rid of the rats, bring back healthy fields and treat the sheep better. Joe has reasons why all of her ideas, which seemed quite sound to me, won’t work.

There are developers sniffing around who wave big wads of money to get their hands on the land. One would think it would be Alice who would like to take the money and run from the memories. Inexplicably, Alice wants to stay and Joe is tired of the endless drain of it.

Ruth Wilson in Dark River

Dark River builds to a climax that brings both a tragic change in the lives of sister and brother, and a chance at redemption.

The film was written and directed by Clio Barnard. Joe Dempsie and Dean Andrews were also in the cast.

Everyone in the cast gave a strong performance. The pain and discomfort between sister and brother almost leapt off the screen, it felt so real. That pain and discomfort was mostly unspoken. There was little dialog, little processing between the siblings.

This isn’t a fun movie. But if you’re in a serious mood, it may be just what you’re looking for.

Dark River poster

Have a look at the trailer.

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