"Helen, if you let him in, we are both dead."
What do I remember of "October Gale" after watching it ? Strange but true, the soundtrack eventually made the biggest impression on me. Melancholic piano music wonderfully fitting the state of mind of Helen Matthews (Patricia Clarkson) . The entire film is carried by the compositions of Mischa Chillak. And especially the beautiful and fragile number "Close Watch" of Agnes Obel playing at the beginning of the film, while Helen navigates her boat over the huge lake to civilization, was perfect at that moment in the film. The modest and understated performances by Clarkson and Speedman (William) were outstanding. And afterwards I also had the desire to travel to such a remote island where you can stay undisturbed. But these are ultimately the only positive things I can think of. It's a fairly empty and uninspired film. "October Gale" described as a thriller, with a touch of drama and romance in it. But ultimately it's only a brief sketch about Helen's process of handling the loss of her husband, with varying emotions coming up. There was a brief moment of romance in the present and a lot of it in the flashbacks. And to label it as a thriller, they really should have come up with a bit more tension since that section was extremely limited.
Helen Matthew, apparently a doctor, goes to an island in Ontario where she and her late husband James (Callum Keith Rennie) used to spend their weekends and holidays in a weekend cottage that has been already 100 years in possession of James' family. Apparently, the only purpose of this trip is to finally clean up that cabin and come clean with the past. An entire cleaning operation so to say. This is accompanied by painful memories and tangible confrontation with the past. When it's all a bit to much to her, she decides to go and buy a new fuse. After some delay she returns to the island, while a powerful storm arises. In the course of the evening she finds the wounded young man William (Scott Speedman) with a gunshot wound in his shoulders and who gives, after being taken care of, a vague explanation about what happened to him.
A simple story which is shown on the big screen in a simple way. At first I thought it was intriguing and fascinating. I was waiting for how the story would develop. But in the end I realized I was still waiting for it. By the time the denouement with the ultimate confrontation came, it was finished before I knew it. If you think this movie will end with a bang, I can already tell you that the curtain will fall with two modest bangs. There were also some dubious facts that made me frown my forehead. Most of these seemed to be rather far-fetched, and some weren't very logical.
I found it odd that there were no spare fuses in the cabin, but the moment Helen takes care of the injured William, she magically pulls out a complete surgical equipment with all kinds of forceps, scissors and disinfectant. Did they have that cottage already when she was an intern in a hospital? Did she use these instruments to practice on her boyfriend at that time? Or is it simply too dangerous to stay on this island? And the way James exchanged the fuses afterwards made me chuckle. A university degree is no guarantee for thinking logical and practical apparently.
The fact she couldn't connect with her cell phone, while this really wasn't a problem in the beginning, made clear that communication waves in these parts of the country aren't really weatherproof and are blown to all directions at the slightest storm. It was also totally incomprehensible to me where those emotions between the two protagonists suddenly came from. There was no apparent reason for that. Perhaps the intimacy during the operation and the additional care, created the charged atmosphere and ensured the chemical reaction between Helen and William. And apparently it's custom in those parts that after getting punched in the face, you'll make some coffee for the attacker. But the most annoying thing was the fact that the whole affair about William wasn't explained. Eventually I wanted to know what had happened and what caused it.
"October Gale" feels like an admirable attempt. But this attempt to make something of it, fails unfortunately and results in a calmly developing film with a mix of emotions. The melancholy and letting go of the past, the absence of affection and the moment someone can feel it back again and the ultimate suspense with vengeance as a central motif. The performances weren't the problem. Especially Clarkson provided a serene and wonderful performance, despite the limited script. Even Speedman sparkled at times, but I guess he was necessary to attract a female audience. The only one who was pretty disappointing (his limited role probably had something to do with it), was Roth. He acted as if he had just flown over briefly to finish the job.
Conclusion: Cinematographic sometimes a joy to look at, but the content missed a little panache and passion.
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