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TIFF 2017 Review: Porcupine Lake

Contemporary World Cinema

Porcupine Lake, writer/director Ingrid Veninger’s sixth feature film, is ambitious. It’s a film that touches on many human experiences while staying fairly intimate. Anchored by Charlotte Salisbury as thirteen-year-old Bea, the film is about curiosity – sexual and otherwise – and the feeling of powerlessness that comes with being a tween.

The story starts as Bea and her mother move from Toronto to northern Ontario in an attempt by Bea’s mother to salvage her marriage with Bea’s father. That’s where Bea meets Kate (Lucinda Armstrong Hall). The two girls are outsiders and have family issues so they cling to each other immediately.  The two rely on each other as a form of escape as well as a way to explore the beginning of adulthood and sexuality.

The one drawback of this film is the cold, and oftentimes, stilted performances. This is Charlotte Salisbury’s first acting credit and she shows a lot of promise. Lucinda Armstrong Hall turns in a much stronger performance but it’s the adults who populate the rest of the film that feel less engaging than the two female leads.  Part of that may be the writing. We get hints at what is going on with the adults and older siblings of Bea and Kate but never any true arcs. However, the actors in these roles still don’t pull you into their scenes the way Salisbury and Hall do. The film is at its strongest when focusing on how Bea processes the events of the film and when Kate is trying to prove she’s stronger than everyone thinks.

Fortunately, the story has such a universal feel that the other performances don’t hurt the film overall.  It’s a film with frank depictions of what it’s like to be a tween beginning to figure life out. That alone should make Porcupine Lake a movie that many people will be able to relate to.


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