The River King

River King posterThe River King is a very different type of contemporary thriller to Killing Me Softly; clever, subdued, atmospheric and very, very cinematic. Also, strangely, it appears to be almost completely unknown, although a DVD has recently surfaced in the UK. I highly recommend giving it a shot.

Abel Grey (Edward Burns) is a small-town cop who is called to investigate the apparent suicide of a boy at an exclusive school in the Canadian countryside. He has his doubts that everything is as it seems, and suspects it may have had something to do with some kind of initiation ceremony which may have gone wrong, but his investigation runs into political trouble before he can discover anything much (the sheriff is unwilling to upset the school, which is investing in a new medical centre for the town). Meanwhile, he’s also haunted by flashbacks to his own past: his brother had killed himself many years earlier and he still doesn’t understand why, and he has a disfunctional relationship with his taciturn father.

This is a slow moving UK / Canadian co-production that benefits from a literate, subtle script and some high quality performances. It’s not a whodunit in a traditional sense, but uses the mystery narrative as a means of opening delving into the minds of the protagonists. For that reason it’s not really thrilling, but a slow burner that has some magical-realist ambitions. With the snow covered scenery, well drawn characters and deliberate pace, it actually reminded me of the novels of Micheal Collins (THE RESURRECTIONISTS, LOST SOULS).

This was the third full length film from Nick Willing, an English director who had previously made Photographing Fairies (97) and Doctor Sleep (2002). Although hardly prolific, these three films stand as above average, interesting productions, shot with a good eye, considerable intelligence and some verve. It will be very interesting to see what he does next.

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