But such is a first feature, and writer-director Susan Rodgers, for any misstep, makes five narratively and visually stunning choices right after.
This story of three brothers torn apart by a past family tragedy is heartbreaking and moving, with a screenplay result that begs to be witnessed. The characters are rich, their interactions human, and the film, in many ways, insightful.
When semi-pro hockey player Jordie, prone to violence, slips up once again and gets kicked off his team for fighting, he begrudgingly returns to his hometown. We get the sense immediately he doesn’t go home because it comforts him, but because the aimless man has nowhere else to go.
He surprises his brothers Nicky and Noah, as well as his father, Doug, a recovering alcoholic responsible for making the boys’ lives hell growing up. Everyone has managed to begrudgingly forgive the man, weak in his old age, except Jordie.
But we soon find out that just because family tensions don’t erupt at the first family brunch doesn’t mean they don’t seethe and bubble just under the surface.
This is an exceptional character drama that hits a few bad notes, but in the end, you probably won’t care. The performances range from adequate to stunning. Unfortunately, Ry Barrett shows up as Jordie in the big, emotional, cathartic scenes, but his brooding, wordless demeanour in the dialogue-heavy meantime just doesn’t do the trick.
He’s a capable actor — and the final third will show you what he’s truly made of — but he just plays Jordie a little bit too quietly. Meanwhile, Colin Price is a revelation as brother Nicky, the family favourite who isn’t as impressive as everyone thinks he is. Christina McInulty is fantastic as neighbour Abby, and finally, there’s a playful nature to Spencer Graham’s youngest brother Noah you can’t resist.
In score and tone, Still The Water falters. But it’s a moody, interesting first film from Prince Edward Island’s Susan Rodgers.
Despite any shortcomings, it will make waves. And if you’re not ready, your heart is going to get swallowed up in its undertow.
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