THE WINTER LAKE poster | ©2021 Epic Pictures

THE WINTER LAKE poster | ©2021 Epic Pictures

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Anson Boon, Charlie Murphy, Emma Mackey, Michael McElhatton, Mark McKenna
Writer: David Turpin
Director: Phil Sheerin
Distributor: Epic Pictures
Release Date: March 5, 2021 (theatrical); March 9, 2021 (digital)

THE WINTER LAKE begins with an underwater shot of a human body on the bottom of a lake. Most of the rest of the film is concerned with how this came to be.

Teenager Tom (Anson Boon) and his young single mother Elaine (Charlie Murphy) move back to the rural country home of Elaine’s great-grandfather after the old man’s death. Tom is nearly silent, and Elaine is frustrated with everything about her life, which doesn’t make for a great parent/child relationship.

Out by himself, Tom makes a disturbing discovery in a pond and brings it back to his room, where he hides it in a box under the bed.

We soon meet the neighbors, single father Ward (Michael McElhatton) and his teen daughter Holly (Emma Mackey). Elaine sees the possibility of companionship in Ward. Holly tries to befriend Tom, who doesn’t get along with Holly’s townie boyfriend Col (Mark McKenna), or Tom’s pals.

The Irish countryside is beautiful, and all of the actors give skilled, felt performances. Murphy gives us a woman who is at her wit’s end, largely because of self-doubt. McElhatton slides persuasively through the different facets of Ward’s personality. Boon is convincing with few words as the troubled Tom, and Mackey shows us the wheels turning in Holly’s mind.

However, writer David Turpin and director Phil Sheerin, in what appears to be an attempt at realism, give us a bunch of naturalistic scenes that establish people not getting along with each other, but little else. It’s credible, but not interesting.

In getting around to the thriller aspects of THE WINTER LAKE, the filmmakers then create some credibility problems. For one thing, the more we learn, the more questions we have about why certain things have taken so long, or happened at all. For another, the characters are sometimes unnecessarily exasperating.

Case in point (which doesn’t constitute much of a spoiler, as it doesn’t affect anything later): Upon arriving in town, Elaine applies for government benefits. She’s told she doesn’t have sufficient proof of residency. A man comes into the office where Elaine is applying, realizes that she’s inherited her granddad’s house – and Elaine storms out instead of asking for the man’s help in establishing her claim. We understand she’s having a tough time, but come on.

Oddly, Elaine eventually becomes the most sympathetic character in the piece. We ought to feel for Tom and Holly because of their circumstances, but while we can muster sympathy, we don’t actually like them.

The consequence of all this is that it’s hard to care where the plot is going. This is made worse by the fact that we can make a good guess as to much of what will happen as soon as we know what it is that Tom found.

THE WINTER LAKE has the virtue of being quiet and restrained. There’s no overheated dialogue, and we can believe in most of the characters’ action. One can imagine the storyline heating up in the hands of, say, the Coen Brothers. Here, though, the film is too cold and still for its own good.

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