In Winter Lake, Tom and his mother, Elaine, move to a small village in Ireland after a traumatic event in Tom’s environment. They soon become acquainted with Ward and his daughter Holly. The couple has a dark secret they are trying to hide, and Tom reluctantly gets involved.

Slow start results in fast start

Winter Lake conveniently begins with an unnecessary reference to Tom and Elaine’s past, which immediately leads to an argument between the two and Elaine angrily proclaiming that the family was forced to uproot her life because of something Tom did. The tone between the characters is hostile, and while nothing specific is said at this point about what that past might be, the dialogue between them seems unnecessary. I was worried that the rest of the film would have the same inexplicable tone, but thankfully that’s not the case. What follows is much more subtle, and while the main plot points are explained well enough, the film leaves some mysteries for the audience to solve.

Winter Lake seems to take its time with the buildup, especially since it starts out quiet and feels slow. The interaction between Tom and Elaine is rather uninteresting, but soon Holly and Ward arrive and with them a disturbing state of affairs. But above all, for twenty minutes the viewer is confronted with the haunting image of a skull and the corpse of a baby that Tom finds in a lake near his home. If you have a weak stomach, I can tell you that this is the only horrible image you will have to endure, even if it is repeatedly.

Although the close-up of the baby’s skull and tiny bones is difficult to see, it is exciting in a way. If the movie already goes this far, what’s left to do?

Small people, big achievements

A small cast means you need strong actors to keep the film from falling apart. The young cast, consisting of Anson Boone from 1917 and Emma Mackey from Sex Education, is incredibly beautiful to watch. After seeing their previous work, they brought something very different to Winter Lake. They are recognizable to the fan, but have established themselves as transformative subjects.

In the middle of the film, Emma holds a heartbreaking monologue that is probably the most important moment in the film. If this was not conveyed properly, the audience would easily lose interest in her as a character. This monologue remains in the background for the rest of the film and is constantly in our minds as the plot unfolds. Emma also has something amazing in the way she works with the dialogue she is given. She laughs and cries when you least expect it, and that’s what makes Holly human. It’s as if Emma isn’t acting, but embodying Holly, and her reactions come from a position of vulnerability.

Boardand winter lake

The lake itself provides an eerie presence in Winter Lake. Holly tells a chilling story of what lies beneath her, and in almost every scene that advances the story in a meaningful way, Lake plays his part well. The lake not only plays an important role in how the baby is found, but it also plays a role in the background of several chilling scenes.

The characters in Winter Lake are very interesting. The film takes great pains to show how the events leading up to it shaped Tom as a person. It cleverly questions Tom’s sense of morality and whether he will do the right thing if he has to. Holly is not without faults either. There are moments in the film where I really sympathized with her, and others where I felt she acted in ways I didn’t understand.

At the same time, the focus on only a few characters detracts a bit from the film’s climax. It’s pretty easy to see what will happen and who will be involved. Perhaps this is inevitable due to the absence of secondary characters. From there, it’s easy to come up with realistic theories about where the film might go. It’s not surprising, and he’s not really taking the risks he could have.

Ireland is beautiful but it is very cold

Winter Lake is a very solid debut from Phil Sheerin. The relationships are tightly woven and the right balance of characters and themes are brought to life. The cold blue cinematic look literally makes the film cold at times. This is all very amusing, as the film is set in a foggy village in Ireland.

Shirin also made the right decision in choosing Ireland as her place of employment. It’s not exactly a love letter to him, but it’s the perfect place to depict the dark and chilling atmosphere of the film.

Winter Lake is a solid and entertaining thriller with decent performances. While it could have explored more gruesome possibilities than it did, it’s a great look at the various dramas and traumas that make up different families. And if some families are struggling behind closed doors, the fate of others is even more tragic.

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