Several films have used lakes as a prop to write a mystery about a bunch of characters trying to hide something at the bottom of it because, well, it seems like a good idea. They wrap it up, shift a ton of stones into it and drop it to keep their lives going. As usual, whatever they were trying to hide comes back to surface and the least expected character finds it, and a struggle begins. The problem here is that the so-called problem-solving lake stops being a prop and becomes the center plot. The Winter Lake, emphasis on how it’s even included in the title, applies the same formula with an unsatisfying climax that you can see coming miles ahead.
Tom (Anson Boon) is a troubled buy shy teenager that is mostly blamed for everything bad that happens in other people’s lives even when he doesn’t meddle in them. After finding a bag in a lake filled with something that leaves him shocked for ages to come, but still somehow managed to get over it and bring it with him back home, Tom decides to keep it like a sacred possession without realizing that its discovery will put him in a bad place with his new neighbors. By then, he meets a rebellious girl who will push him to break out of his shell— until she discovers what he’s keeping under his bed.
Before pointing at the flaws, I have to give some endorsement to the director for the crafty way The Winter Lake was filmed. It has beautiful frames and a spectacular play on geometric angles with steady camera work— it’s outstanding. The ambience and the tint of its ice-cold-and-dead colors give it the feeling you would expect of a mysterious plot. Sadly, it’s disappointing to never see the mystery come out of water.
You might recognize Emma Mackey from Netflix’s Sex Education; she plays the character of Maeve, the strong-yet-complicated girl that manipulates everyone to fulfill her wishes. Her character in this film, Holly, is a little more vulnerable but isn’t far from being the same and still, she’s the highlight of the film. Every character in The Winter Lake starts with the basic idea of being the worst that the next one you see on screen, even when they claim they’re good— they’re not— and to hate Tom to the point of turning him into a victim. Most of the characters are very badly written and developed— it’s as if the purpose was to leave them empty from the beginning just to fill them up as the plot moved forward.
Everything must come to surface but The Winter Lake struggles to keep afloat but drowns on its own. With the major subject being the manipulation of an innocent person, the films stands as a slow-burn thriller that for a while forgets its genre and acts entirely as a drama during the middle acts.
6 OUT OF 10 MUDDY SKULLS