Writer-director Melanie Oates knows how to push the exasperation and desperation of her characters into the ultimate tone of the film.
This is one of the most unsettling films of the festival — not in the sense that it’s psychologically taxing — but in the sense that the emotional dread and the inability of the characters to get out of their surroundings is felt deeply by the audience.
Kelly Van Der Burg gives an incredible performance as 18-year-old Tess, depressed after the loss of her mother and on the brink of failing out of school, who finds her world changed when she meets a drifter.
She’s loved hometown boy Danny Sharpe’s music her whole life, so when her mother’s widower (not her father) reveals his new lover is Danny’s matriarch, she is thrust into meeting her idol. He shows up 20 years after he disappeared, leaving a sheer mess in his wake.
As he and Tess strike up a cordial friendship that becomes more, her life becomes more and more difficult.
Newfoundland’s Joel Thomas Hynes slips into the skin of a sleazebag well as Danny, and it’s nice to see him back at FIN after 2016 brought us a double-dose in Hunting Pignut and First Round Down.
He has an immeasurable presence, and he and Van Der Burg make this film intensely watchable, despite the rough content.