Suspicious River

With the amazing Molly Parker--Good despite some flaws--and everything goes better with Molly

December 18th, 2010 by Wayward Muse
Rating: Genres: , Featured Actors: Actors: Byron Lucas, Callum Keith Rennie, Deanna Milligan, Joel Bissonnette, Katie Keating, Michael Shanks, Norman Armour, Paul Jarrett, Sarah-Jane Redmond Directors: Lynne Stopkewich

A perfect example of “traumatic reenactment,” Suspicious River might confuse those who have no familiarity with the concept, but it is not far-fetched. The Netflix synopsis is uncharacteristically accurate and complete. What is left for the viewer to discover is the story-behind-the story.

What compels Leila (Parker) to behave in the clearly compulsive and self-destructive way that she does? My thoughts come from a place of having known and worked with hundreds of women like Leila; most end up as addicts or in prison, or at best just trapped in abusive relationships; or all that and more. The significance of Suspicious River is that, for those willing to suspend judgment for a moment, it gives a glimpse into the roots of this particular kind of self-destructive behavior. But for those who don’t appreciate (or are at least open to consider) severe trauma and it’s effects, the information will go right over their heads. Leila’s trauma is particularly intense, and her response is proportionately extreme.

This could have been a great movie. It covers edgy and important ground, and included some very brave performances: Molly Parker is dynamite and turns this flawed production into something quite moving in spite of itself, and both Callum Keith Rennie as the smooth sadist, and Michael Shanks in a short, but crucial role, are very good as well. Most of the rest of the acting is quite sub-par, however, and there are problems with the editing, and with the screenplay. The subplot with the little girl is too tricky and precious for it’s own good. Most viewers will figure out her significance immediately, and all the decoys thrown at the audience serve simply to weaken the impact of the story, and make the ending unconvincing. The film is brutal, not graphic, yet edge-of-the-seat palpably ominous from start to finish.

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