Starring Lindsay Burdge, Jennifer LaFleur, Aleksa Palladino
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
You can usually take a glimpse at any film, and over a brief span of time ascertain for yourself what frame it’s going to fit into, however with The Midnight Swim from director Sarah Adina Smith, there appears to be a “dueling framework” thing going on, and I found myself not knowing where to tread with this one.
The story itself is structurally very simple: we follow three sisters who have returned to their childhood home after the mysterious death of their mother (Beth Grant), who while on a marine science-dive, never resurfaced from the lake near their home – seems Mom took her job a little too serious, and the girls are home to settle her affairs now that she’s gone…or is she? Annie ( LaFleur), the oldest of the trio, followed my middle-sib Isa (Palladino), and the slightly-damaged June (Burdge), who is constantly recording (supposedly for a documentary) are the trifecta of mourners that serve as the movie’s backbone. The time at their old residence is spent recollecting memories of their childhood – some good, some less than productive towards a child’s enrichment. The lake itself takes on a very strong presence in itself – as not only one that has presumably taken the girls mother from them, but a mysterious legend about seven sisters who drowned moons ago, acting as fodder for a few intriguing moments that get captured on June’s recording from time to time.
The interactions between all three sisters hinge on uncomfortable at times, with the two older women in a subdued love-triangle, and the reclusive June, who spends the majority of the film tucked behind the lens. Over the course of events, we learn a great deal about their mom, as she was not only a dedicated scientist who pledged her life to her beliefs, but a woman who left a lot behind before (and after) her death. As I eluded to earlier, we’ve got the struggle between the creepy-mystery, and the sadness of a parent’s death, and the loss of innocence and the re-gathering of memories. The first-person aspect used in the film, which is normally a colossal peeve of mine, surprisingly didn’t bother me in its usage, and at times enhanced specific moments in the movie, such as a long night shot of the pier where June debates a search for her mother – very eerie, indeed.
All of the main performances were strong, and each woman delivers their own heavy dose of emotion when it came to their individual retrospection towards the woman who “raised” them – you begin to feel for all three, and that is a quality in any actor’s performance that separates a dull piece of work from a stand-out one. As a slight caveat: don’t expect any barn burning action or insanely large jump-scares from this one – its power lies in its subtlety, and boy does it pack a punch. This film defines the term “slow burn,” and with all the water around in this one, I’m sure you could withstand a little singeing…just hop in the lake to soothe your pain, or are you afraid someone’s going to pull you under?