Frances Fisher in a disturbing story – The Hollywood Reporter

The first time Frances Fisher’s character appears in The King TideShe is hunched over, taciturn, depressed by life and perhaps a stroke. When the main story begins 10 years later, she is a radiant picture of New Age vitality and vigor, and the island she lives on has changed. No one is afraid of illness anymore, because all ailments and injuries are alleviated by the miraculous healing powers of a little girl. The small population is united and harmonious – until the little girl’s powers expire.

In this story full of strong atmospheres and well-engraved types, an isolated community discovers an otherworldly source of harmony, and the North Atlantic setting is as much a character as each of the villagers. Filming in the tiny town of Keels in Newfoundland, director Christian Sparkes (hammer) plunges straight into a mood of crisis and foreboding with scenes of a pregnant woman’s bloody miscarriage and a devastating storm. The crashing waves are filmed in thick darkness by cinematographer Mike McLaughlin, with the brooding cellos in Andrew Staniland’s score adding to the unease. Even when a mysterious toddler washes up on the island’s shores, promising more than anyone could imagine, the turmoil on the horizon never quite dissipates.

The King Tide

The conclusion

Effectively scary and revealing.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival (Platform)
Pour: Clayne Crawford, Frances Fisher, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Aden Young, Alix West Lefler, Michael Greyeyes
Screenwriters: William Woods, Albert Shin
Director: Christian Sparkes

1 hour 43 minutes

The man who saved the baby from the flood not long after his wife’s miscarriage is the town’s mayor, Bobby Bentham (Clayne Crawford, of The killing of two lovers), and with the blessing of the villagers, he and Grace (Lara Jean Chorostecki) adopted the child. But Isla (Alix West Lefler) is not only welcomed into a loving home, but has also achieved a higher goal, especially through Bobby’s mother-in-law Faye (Fisher). The good-natured 10-year-old is a kind of fountain of youth incarnate. To be alone in her presence, even when she is sleeping, is to immerse yourself in healing, protective energy. Under Faye’s supervision, the villagers line up for “visits” to Isla, time-limited sessions aimed at ridding themselves of their pain and worries.

Isla is the salvation and the secret of the islanders. Not only does she make her wounds and hangovers disappear, but she also ensures that there is always enough cod to feed her. (She puts her hand in the water and the fish swarm towards her to be caught from the nets; their powers are not beneficial to her all Living things.) Isla’s gifts, as used by the adults, have allowed the island to cut all connections to the mainland – no telephones, radio or television (this is a story set in the pre-digital age). This separation reflects her self-sufficiency, but also her determination to keep the authorities from interfering in her Shangri-la.

All is well until a devastating event occurs that Isla can neither prevent nor reverse. She is traumatized by her failure to save one of her classmates and finds her ability to heal diminishing. Bobby requests a suspension of visits to give his daughter time to rest and recover. But Faye – who, it becomes clear, has positioned herself as a sort of secret mayor – plays the democracy card and leads a vote that defeats his plan. Isla apparently belongs not just to Bobby and Grace, but to everyone.

The cracks soon become apparent when the village doctor, the widower Beau Holland (an excellent Aden Young, by Remedy), offers the most consistent and consistently outvoted voice of reason. Beau, no longer needed since Isla’s arrival and therefore exposed to alcohol, looks at the adored but exploited girl and sees a vulnerable child, one who happens to be the best friend of his kind-hearted son Junior (Cameron Nicoll). Fishermen Dillon (Ryan McDonald) and Marlon (Michael Greyeyes) look at Isla and see the only way to keep the town from starving when greedy mainland fishermen exhaust the fishery. Charlotte (Kathryn Greenwood) sees the talisman that freed her from the fear that she might succumb to the same disease that killed her mother. Like most of their neighbors, they are willing to wait for Isla’s gifts to return, but in the meantime they cannot bear the thought of disrupting the routines that bring them comfort.

Sparkes, working from a screenplay by William Woods and Albert Shin, reveals scene by scene how isolated the village has become and how secure most of its residents are of the high status Isla has bestowed upon them. In Crawford’s tense performance, Bobby is torn between his ties to his family and to the townspeople, becoming increasingly conflicted with both as Grace sides with her mother. The ever-widening divide pits a secret minority against all others, those who are determined not to return to the way things were before Isla’s aura blessed them, and who will do anything to prevent that. A couple (Ben Stranahan and Amelia Manuel) plot an escape, while Beau’s long-simmering resistance surfaces in the portable television he saved and kept running, an artifact he shares with a fascinated Junior and Isla.

The story progresses through an unfolding series of interactions that could be tighter, while the score, which effectively deepens the mood of conflicting interests at key moments, is too insistently layered in several sequences – and needlessly the performances don’t require any emotional push or cranked-up tension .

Sparkes excels in a quiet, understated portrayal of Lefler as an innocent who tries to separate the truth from the lies and who feels a sense of responsibility and importance beyond her years, along with discouraging feelings of guilt when her powers fail. If only for brief moments, Isla can also be a playful child, especially when she is with Junior, endearingly portrayed by Nicoll. Crucially, Lefler’s understated performance is in keeping with the enigmatic cunning that Fisher brings to Faye, the person perhaps most revitalized by the mysterious child.

Whether the characters are direct or devious, all performances are in keeping with the harsh isolation of the setting, as are the rustic and old-fashioned aesthetics of the production design (by Adriana Bogaard) and costumes (Charlotte Reid). In the face of wild natural beauty, calls for “solidarity” are coded warnings against dissent, and promises of a “safe place” are, as Beau drunkenly and aptly explains, a load of crap. But no matter what punishment he faces, he has ensured that two wide-eyed children get a glimpse of a larger world. Within the island community of The King TideThe grainy footage of Grandma Clampett railing against her neighbors in Beverly Hills is pure subversion.

Full credits

Venue: Toronto Film Festival (Platform)
Production companies: Woods Entertainment, Sara Fost Pictures
Cast: Clayne Crawford, Frances Fisher, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Aden Young, Alix West Lefler, Michael Greyeyes, Ryan McDonald, Cameron Nicoll, Ben Stranahan, Amelia Manuel, Kathryn Greenwood, Emily Piggford, Erika Dietz, Willow Kean
Director: Christian Sparkes
Screenwriters: William Woods, Albert Shin
Story: Ryan Grassby, Kevin Coughlin
Producers: William Woods, Allison White
Executive Producers: Tom Spriggs, Rob McGillivray, Ben Stranahan, John Hansen, Albert Shin, Christian Sparkes, William Clarke, Andy Mason, Mark Runagall, Mark Gingras, John Laing, Harry Grivakis, Javi Hernandez, Claire Peace-McConnell, Ernie Grivakis, Maddy Fall, Amanda MacDonald, Alona Metzer, Alex Ordanis
Cinematographer: Mike McLaughlin
Production Designer: Adriana Bogaard
Costume designer: Charlotte Reid
Editor: Justin Oakey
Music: Andrew Staniland
Cast: Angela Demo, Stephanie Gorin
Distribution: Altitude Film Sales

1 hour 43 minutes

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