October Gale

Dir: Ruba Nadda
Star: Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman, Tim Roth

This strikingly unthrilling thriller, sees Doctor Helen Matthews (Clarkson) retreat to a remote cabin by a lake to clear out the emotional and physical baggage, resulting from the untimely death of her husband. Her isolation is rudely interrupted when a stranger, Will (Speedman), with a bullet in his shoulder, crawls into her house looking for sanctuary. While the Hippocratic Oath kicks in, and Helen tends to his wounds, this raises obvious questions - not least because he is reluctant to address important questions, such as who he is hiding from. For when Helen is visited by a local who sees Will, when the visitor departs, he unties her boat from the dock, effectively stranding her. Will eventually admits to the reason for his predicament: having accidentally killed a man in a bar fight, the victim's family, led by Tom (Roth) is now out for revenge. And his predicament is now their predicament, given her assistance to Will.

Sounds interesting, right? Wrong. Rather than ratcheting up the tension or level of threat, Nadda doesn't seem to have the first clue (or, perhaps, just doesn't care) about how to construct a thriller. Instead, she has Helen and Will sitting around, chatting enigmatically to each other about their past, present and future. I could have taken that, if there had been any sense of uncertainty about whether Will is the good guy or not; it's no spoiler to say, there isn't, not least because Speedman and his chisel-jaw is so unrelentingly heroic, compared to Roth's sleazeball. If you're looking for a character-driven conversation piece, sure, and Clarkson isn't actually bad in that aspect. Nor is Roth (in what little we see of him, compared to the main two). However, it does show why Speedman's most well-known role is as eye-candy in Underworld, and he just isn't up to the dramatic heavy lifting necessary here. Maybe he was expecting less talking and more doing; if so, he isn't alone there.

[December 2015]

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