Review: ‘Suspicious River’

Canadian helmer Lynne Stopkewich follows her award-winning feature debut, "Kissed," with an offbeat shocker about a deeply wounded young woman whose robotic passivity turns her into the plaything of a dangerous stranger. "Suspicious River" bravely follows its heroine on her descent into the depths of depraved, violent sexuality. Too weird to offer the voyeuristic pleasures of a genre film and far from pornographic (nudity is practically absent), pic leaves a sticky-fingered sensation in viewers, whose resistance to the heroine and story suggest a quick trip to video.

Canadian helmer Lynne Stopkewich follows her award-winning feature debut, “Kissed,” with an offbeat shocker about a deeply wounded young woman whose robotic passivity turns her into the plaything of a dangerous stranger. “Suspicious River” bravely follows its heroine on her descent into the depths of depraved, violent sexuality. Too weird to offer the voyeuristic pleasures of a genre film and far from pornographic (nudity is practically absent), pic leaves a sticky-fingered sensation in viewers, whose resistance to the heroine and story suggest a quick trip to video.

Leila (Molly Parker), the receptionist in a desolate motel, rounds out her paycheck by turning tricks with guests. Parker’s pretty, provincial face, wide eyes and parted lips scream vulnerability, but she is oddly unresponsive when Gary (convincing roughneck Callum Keith Rennie) hits her in the face. Stopkewich concisely describes her sexless marriage and increasing attraction to the psychotic, unstable Gary. In an unpleasant parallel story, a little girl helplessly observes her mother and violent uncle getting it on, suggesting that family trauma might lurk behind Leila’s problems. Climax is truly gruesome. Bass-thumping river songs add atmosphere to the bleak Vancouver setting.

Suspicious River

Canada

Production

A Key Films release (in Italy) of an Okulitch-Pederson Co./Suspicious Films production. (International sales: Beyond Films, Surry Hills, Australia.) Produced by Michael Okulitch, Raymond Massey. Executive producers, Hamish McAlpine, Erik Stensrud. Directed, written by Lynne Stopkewich, based on a novel by Laura Kasischke.

Crew

Camera (color), Gregory Middleton; editor, Allan Lee; music, Don MacDonald; production designer, Don MacAulay; costumes, Sheila White. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Cinema of the Present), Sept. 5, 2000. (Also in Toronto Festival--Perspective Canada.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Molly Parker, Callum Keith Rennie, Joel Bissonette, Deanna Milligan, Mary Kate Welsh.

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