Sean Bean => Critics' Corner => Topic started by: patch on September 11, 2017, 12:10:39 AM

Title: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on September 11, 2017, 12:10:39 AM
Toronto Film Review: ‘Dark River’
  fine Ruth Wilson headlines Clio Barnard's third feature, a stirring battle-for-the-land drama combining classicism with a nervous edge.
“You can’t go home again,” that age-old chorus of mature disillusionment, at first appears to be the driving current of “Dark River,” a severe, stoic but internally screaming third feature from gifted British writer-director Clio Barnard. Yet as already brittle family relations shatter and scatter across the humble patch of Yorkshire farmland that centers this roiling rural tragedy, the message turns harder still: Perhaps you were never really home at all.
Melding the quiet poetic realism of Barnard’s exquisite “The Selfish Giant” with a higher-key strain of relocated Greek tragedy, “Dark River” isn’t quite as bracing or as unexpected as the director’s previous work — not least because, through no fault of the film’s own, it’s only the latest in a recent boom of comparably styled British farm dramas. Still, there’s scarcely room here for improvement at the level of craft or performance; in particular, it’s gratifying to see leading lady Ruth Wilson headlining a big-screen vehicle worthy of her flinty brilliance.

She’s also proving herself one of the most intuitively original adaptation artists working today. After “The Selfish Giant” put a thoroughly oblique yet spiritually true spin on Oscar Wilde, “Dark River” credits Rose Tremain’s acclaimed 2010 novel “Trespass” as its inspiration: A story of familial and class conflict in rural France, it has undergone a drastic geographic and sociopolitical makeover. What remains from the source is an unsparing view of rancorous sibling rivalry, with estranged love and intimate hate pushed to such extremes by circumstance that they’re no longer distinguishable. Of note is that Barnard wrote the film with a grant from British biomedical charity the Wellcome Trust, awarded annually to screenwriters bridging ideas of art and science. Though not academic in detail or outlook, “Dark River” has grown persuasively out of psychiatric research into traumatic memory.

The trauma, in this case, belongs to Alice (Wilson), a native Yorkshirewoman who has spent the last 15 years drifting from farm to farm, scraping by on contract work as a sheep shearer, seemingly avoiding fixity at all costs. One sheep-scattered smallholding she hasn’t passed through in this time is her family’s own, where her brooding older brother Joe (“Game of Thrones” alum Mark Stanley) has been caring for their sickly father (Sean Bean, glimpsed only in terse, quivering flashbacks), increasingly overwhelmed by the demands of the land. Nevertheless, following her father’s death, she warily returns to claim what she believes is her rightful tenancy of the decaying farm.

Hardened by years of compounded disappointment and unrewarded labor, Joe unsurprisingly does not see things the same way, challenging his once-beloved sister’s claim in what gradually escalates into an ugly war of psychological attrition. Even such petty conflicts as a disagreement over methods of sheep-dipping take on larger emotional resonance as the two mutually stubborn siblings grapple for the upper hand, all while the spoils of the battle look increasingly small and unstable. Overlapping in certain narrative respects with “God’s Own Country” and “The Levelling,” “Dark River” likewise dramatizes the widespread financial crisis presently facing Britain’s farmers. There may be no mention of Brexit here, but accidentally or otherwise, its attendant anxiety feels present in the film’s downbeat mood.

An actress of stern, subtle gravitas who has been amply tested in theater and on television, Wilson is long overdue a film lead of this breadth and heft. Though she plays Alice with a decidedly modern defiance, the performance is marked by the classical plangency of her stage turns in such standards as “Anna Christie” and “Hedda Gabler” — a heightened tonal counterpoint to the textured naturalism of her gait and accent.

She has an earthily volatile screen opponent in Stanley, a hard-shelled creature of ire who projects occasional flashes of the less embittered man Joe might have been if he hadn’t been left to contend with his father’s muddy finances and muddier personal history. Both actors do a fine job of physically carrying the paternal abuse they’ve weathered, most wrenchingly so in Alice’s case: Her silent, seconds-long lapses of consciousness into a nightmarish past are tightly controlled, too, by editors Nick Fenton and Luke Dunkley, as Barnard’s script trusts viewers with the ugliest implicit details.

'Dark River': Toronto Review
A close-quarters drama from writer-director Clio Barnard (The Selfish Giant, The Arbor), Dark River is a precise, penetrating story of casual farm labourer Alice (Ruth Wilson), who has somehow survived a childhood of sexual abuse at the hands of her father (Sean Bean, in flashback).

 It has been 15 years since Alice fled their rundown rural farmhouse, yet, when he dies, she opts to return to confront the past and a complicated relationship with a brother who can terrify her. Rats roam the barns, fences are in disrepair, the sheep go hungry. Still, Alice wants to make it good, fix it all up; her bright eyes surge with hope against the odds.

Premiering in Toronto’s Platform section, Dark River should enjoy healthily festival exposure as Barnard’s reputation continues to grow. A career-best performance from Ruth Wilson will help this drama resonate, although commercial prospects are hard to call for the third British farming drama this year, after God’s Own Country and The Levelling. Softly reminiscent of the Scotland-based Shell in its difficult subject matter, and inspired by Rose Tremain’s novel Trespass, Dark River is distinguised by superior film-making and admirable command of tone and pacing. Once again, Barnard delivers an intimate take on a difficult subject, raising anticipation for her future work should she decide to scale up.

The writer/director sets her highly-charged story against the wide vistas of rural Yorkshire, where weather batters and burnishes the landscape and the dank, squalid interiors of a run-down farm are haunted by the past. The director confidently builds up tension – the flickering images of days gone by interact with the quietly churning score – and draws quiet believability from Wilson as the hesitant, frightened, but tough survivor.

Slim, at 89 minutes, Dark River (the title of a Ted Hughes poem) sets off down a classical narrative path – the death of a father unlocking the action – yet feathers in the narrative slowly and mysteriously. Although the abuse is made clear, it’s never established what happened to make Alice leave her brother Joe (Mark Stanley) behind 15 years ago, or the precise nature of their relationship then. It’s also not easy to predict how she will behave now. At times she’s defiant, but often Alice is simply scared, impelled to sieze on her father’s promise of the land as the chance to make good. Flashbacks, hooked on to underwater sequences, fade in and out and Alice is still too terrified to sleep in the farmhouse, opting for a tin shack instead.

Joe, meanwhile, is volatile and given to alcoholic rages. He’s a bad farmer, often absent to drive a lorry for his second job. Alice applies for the farm tenancy, but so does Matty, as they come to blows over the right way to farm the land. He threatens to convict her, while a crooked land agent is probably one of the least convincing elements of the piece, yet brings Dark River to a convincing denouement.

Alice is proud of her skills as a sheep shearer, and scenes with the livestock help bring life and colour to the gloom, while Matty’s empassioned speech about biodiversity speaks volumes about letting matters lie. Adriano Goldman’s camera is intuitive and lithe, while Harry Escott’s score throbs (PJ Harvey’s ’An Acre Of Land’ tops and tails the piece). This is a story told with a strong female perspective, with Wilson bringing fresh insights to the story of a survivor of abuse. This fine actress should certainly be noticed when it comes to British awards.

Toronto 2017: Dark River review
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Following this year's The Levelling and God's Own Country, the decaying farmlands of rural England appear to be replacing the urban concrete high-rise as the preferred setting for British social realism. Clio Barnard's Dark River may well be the cream of this particular crop.

 Barnard, whose Yorkshire-centric filmography already includes doc-hybrid The Arbor and The Selfish Giant, once again takes loose inspiration from a literary source - this time a plot strand in British author Rose Tremain's multi-narrative novel Trespass - to provide the basis for a slow-burning, often suffocatingly tense tale of a sibling power struggle. Returning to the homestead of her childhood, roving sheep shearer Alice (Ruth Wilson) finds both the farm and her younger brother Joe (Mark Stanley) in comparable states of disrepair.

 Ground down by the day-to-day care of their recently-deceased father (Sean Bean on flashback duty)   and looking for a quick sale, Joe struggles to understand his sister's motivation for returning the farm back to its former glory. The rightful owner of the property, Alice finds herself battling not only her ox-like drunk of a brother but also the spectres of an abusive past. To add insult to injury, an increasingly unhinged Joe accepts a backhander from the farm's unscrupulous landlords to sell Alice's inheritance from under her nose, setting in course a tragic chain of events.

 Anchored by two exceptional, contrasting performances from leads Wilson and Stanley, Dark River expands upon the themes of childhood kinship central to The Selfish Giant, whilst at the same time serving as a condemnation of the historic exploitation and mismanagement of rural England's once-thriving agricultural heartland. Throughout the film, bonds - be they familial or statutory - are abused and betrayed, the only true loyalty found in the duty-bound dogs that slink along at Alice's side. A kindly neighbour (Shane Attwooll) provides some respite from the mounting pressure, but as Joe's psychological integrity begins to crumble, Alice finds herself in danger of losing more than merely bricks and mortar.

 Sumptuously shot by Brazilian cinematographer Adriano Goldman (whose previous credits include Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre) and edited by longtime Barnard collaborator Nick Fenton, Dark River goes some way towards further cementing its director as the spiritual heir to social realist master Ken Loach. Where Barnard differentiates herself, however, is in her dedication to exploring both the inner and outer-workings of her beleaguered characters. The key here is the perfectly-cast Wilson, constantly swimming against the current of her own harrowing memories, often telling more in a single glance than her sporadic utterances to her similarly-broken brother ever could.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on September 12, 2017, 01:52:09 AM
TIFF 2017: Dark River Review
Just when you thought you’d seen the very best film set on a farm in Yorkshire this year in Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country – along comes Clio Barnard to provide some stiff competition. This exceptionally talented filmmaker, whose work can be compared to that of which we see from Shane Meadows, follows on from The Arbor and The Selfish Giant with yet another tremendously bleak affair – but such is the conviction and commitment to reality, it’s rewarding, fulfilling cinema, despite the themes being explored.

Alice (Ruth Wilson) left her family’s farm years ago, and had little desire to return. Until her father, portrayed in flashbacks by Sean Bean, passes away. With the farm now in the hands of her volatile brother Joe (Mark Stanley) she decides to head back home and take control of the family business. With her best intentions at heart, she wants to claim the tenancy to what she believes is rightfully hers – but having not been around for 15 years, she faces opposition from Joe who is of the opinion that he is the rightful landowner.

Despite the opening line in this review – similarities to God’s Own Country are somewhat tenuous, for the latter lingers on the notion of birth, with hope a paramount theme. On a farm, however, if there is one thing as prevalent as birth, it’s death – and it’s here this film thrives. Naturally what transpires is a challenging watch, that is unrelenting in how desolate it becomes.

While perhaps the bleak nature of the narrative is somewhat overbearing, and predictable in parts, as you can foresee the tragic elements of the story – it doesn’t mean this isn’t worthwhile cinema, for it’s been presented in such a beautiful way; the harshness of the landscape and the serenity of the wilderness combining to make for a truly evocative endeavour. Barnard uses imagery so intelligently too, and the notion of memory – in how small, seemingly innocuous things can remind Alice of her harrowing past, a subtle smell, or a noise, constantly taking her back to the dark places in her mind.

Given the nature of the film, in order to work it requires a strong leading performance, and with Wilson that much is a given. It’s such a nuanced turn, and she conveys so much without the need for dialogue, with a sadness and vacancy behind her eyes that suggests she’s been through so much, conflicted in her emotions as she returns home to say goodbye to the man who inflicted the majority of her anguish. The actress is matched at every turn by Stanley too – as between their performances, and the ability in Barnard’s storytelling, it ensures that Dark River is one of the standout British films this year.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: Clairette on September 12, 2017, 03:55:32 AM
Elevator pitch: Latter-day Wuthering Heights meets kitchen-sink.

Alice (Ruth Wilson) is a highly competent sheep hand who returns to a decaying family farm after the death of her abusive father: Can she and her traumatized brother (Mark Stanley) run the operation together? Director Clio Barnard has an unblinking and decidedly bleak view of both the Yorkshire setting and family relations, although there is the occasional puzzling slip: Alice, a woman whose most prized possession is a sheep shearing tool, is always shown wearing makeup. Wilson and Stanley’s performances are unwavering; Barnard inserts flashbacks to their characters’ youth with devastating accuracy, but the rugged emotional territory (and the Yorkshire accents) prove heavy-going in an uncompromising film that elicits a lot more admiration than enjoyment.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on September 13, 2017, 12:00:07 AM
‘Dark River’: Film Review | TIFF 2017
Ruth Wilson stars as a sheep-shearer haunted by an abusive past in this British drama from writer-director Clio Barnard ('The Arbor,' 'The Selfish Giant').

Of a piece thematically with her two previous features, documentary The Arbor and drama The Selfish Giant, Clio Barnard’s latest, Dark River, once again sketches a moving, North of England-set portrait of marginalized working-class cultures and the resilience of damaged children. Featuring a more name cast than Barnard’s earlier works, this pivots around the protean Ruth Wilson (TV’s Luther, The Affair) as a woman trying to run the family farm after her father’s death, and confronting her own traumatized past in the process.

 The dominant note is the warm but quotidian realism of Giant rather than the experimental daring of Arbor, yet Dark River yields a perceptive study of family dynamics, unfolding in a changing landscape as prey to economic forces and demographic shifts as any urban center. Wilson’s name along with that of Sean Bean and at least two other Game of Thrones veterans may help raise River’s profile a few notches, but it’s unlikely to harvest much more than usual for British fare of its type.

Alice Bell (Wilson) lives the life of modern agricultural gypsy, moving from farm to farm in her Land Rover to shear sheep on temporary contracts. Highly competent and respected by her employers and peers, Alice seemingly keeps at bay the pain of remembering the childhood sexual abuse inflicted by her father Richard (Bean) by staying perpetually in motion and concentrating on her work. But when she hears that Richard has finally died after a long illness, she returns to the Yorkshire farm where she grew up to reclaim the lease on the land, determined to take what Richard once promised her, perhaps as some kind of compensation.

 The hitch is that her elder brother Joe (Mark Stanley, excellent) is still living on the farm and half-heartedly attending to its flock of sheep, in between shifts as a truck driver. Joe looked after Richard up until his death, and feels some stifled resentment that Alice thinks she can just waltz back in after a 15-year absence and start taking over the place. For her part, Alice is willing to share the lease and work the farm in collaboration with Joe. But they have different ideas about how to run things, from whether the sheep should be dipped or sprayed (for parasites and wool preservation) or if a nearby field should be used for silage (Alice’s choice) or left fallow so that the plants and animals decimated by intensive farming practices can be left to regenerate (Joe’s preference).

As it happens, these debates between the siblings look likely to be moot since the company that actually owns all the Bell family’s acres wants to develop the property for holiday cottages and tourism instead of farming, although they can’t actually say that outright. This means that even though Alice is manifestly the more capable and competent farmer, the company’s representatives approach Joe with the offer of a backhander and the lease in his name, for at least a little while longer, if he promises to evict his sister

Issues involving money and property are not the only things at stake here. Barnard’s elliptical script refrains from spelling things out too baldly in words, but it’s clear from the flashbacks (which feature Esme Creed-Miles as the young Alice and Aiden McCullough as young Joe) that Alice was regularly abused by Richard when she was a child, perhaps after Alice and Joe's mother died or left. Apparently, Joe knew about the abuse, and not only did he fail to stop it, he actually helped his father to control Alice and keep her from seeing potential-boyfriend David (Joe Dempsie, another Thrones alum). Those who read Rose Tremain’s novel Trespass, on which this is very loosely based, will also be aware that there’s an even darker history between the two siblings in Tremain's version of the story.

One can’t help wondering whether at one point, during development perhaps, there were scenes that took the story in this creepier direction. Meanwhile, an end credit lists actor Una McNulty in the role of Susan Bell, presumably Alice and Joe’s mother, and the character features in the dialogue but is never met onscreen nor is her absence ever explained, which suggests things may have been shifted around somewhat between shooting and the final cut. Indeed, the film sometimes feels particularly withholding and suggestive when it comes to plot, although there’s enough expression in the faces of the actors, especially Wilson and Stanley, to fill in the emotional gaps.

Bean himself barely has more than a line or two, but even in the very few moments he appears onscreen — climbing into bed with his daughter, or looking with glowering and guilt at her from across a room — he makes an indelible impression. Barnard underscores this by suggesting that he’s still around, like a memory or a ghost, interacting through magic of eyeline match cuts with the grown Alice played by Wilson rather than the child Alice played by Creed-Miles. (Who, incidentally is both terrifically cast to play the young Wilson and yet also looks a lot like her real-life mother, the superb British actor Samantha Morton.) Ultimately, though, this is Wilson’s film and she owns it with a performance rich in psychological subtlety that simultaneously projects ferocity and vulnerability. Plus, she gets to show off her sheep-shearing and dog whistling chops, and how many actors can claim the same?
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on September 14, 2017, 07:55:28 AM
  “Dark River,” another movie that begins with a daughter’s homecoming after her father’s death. This one, however, is set not in London but rather in the farther-flung sheep pastures of Yorkshire, where a woman named Alice (Ruth Wilson) has spent 15 years drifting and working as a shearer. Once she learns of her dad’s passing, she immediately returns home to claim tenancy of her family’s small farm, to which she believes she is entitled, although her rough, ill-tempered brother, Joe (Mark Stanley), obviously has different ideas in mind.

Adapted and significantly changed from Rose Tremain’s France-set novel “Trespass,” “Dark River” is both a ferocious drama of sibling animus — beautifully enacted by Wilson and Stanley — and a harrowing chronicle of abuse. We glimpse Alice’s physical violation at her father’s hands in brief, splintered flashbacks, which Barnard weaves into her narrative with shivery skill. Audiences who have seen the director’s brilliant experimental documentary “The Arbor” (2011) and her heartrending drama “The Selfish Giant” (2013), know her skill at conjuring a bleakly enveloping sense of place, and this movie, with its wild, rugged moors pelted by sudden rains, is no exception.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on September 15, 2017, 01:03:19 AM
Dark River review - sparkling central duo lift Clio Barnard's social-realist farm yarn
 3 / 5 stars 
Clio Barnard is the fiercely intelligent, visually inventive and innovative film-maker who gave us the brilliant docu-hybrid The Arbor and then The Selfish Giant, an inspired interpretation of Oscar Wilde set in Bradford. Her third feature, Dark River, is never anything other than acute and sensitive, with some very good actors giving well directed performances. But for all this movie’s qualities, it is a British social-realist picture in a well-understood idiom which perhaps doesn’t quite give us the shock of the new that her previous films delivered. And the appearance of a shotgun early on triggers the ancient Chekhov law about what happens to a gun that is produced in Act One: we are heading to a slightly melodramatic and functional ending.
Ruth Wilson is excellent as Alice, a young woman who has been earning money with seasonal work on farms. Then she receives news that her widower father has died, and she must return to the family home, a tenant farm in North Yorkshire, which her brother Joe (Mark Stanley) has let become a ruin. He has driven himself almost to a breakdown looking after their ill father and is enraged with Alice for running out on them, leaving him to do all the work. Their relationship explodes into open warfare when Alice fiercely reveals that she intends to apply to the farm’s freeholder for permission to become the sole tenant, effectively in control. She believes this is what she is owed, because the awful truth is that her father abused her. And as for Joe, he has his own motives for making a counter-claim to the tenancy.
Their troubled past is revealed in disturbing flashbacks, with Esme Creed-Miles and Aiden McCollough as the younger Alice and Joe, and Sean Bean as their father, like a vivid ghost, as Alice is haunted by memories of the house – particularly her own bedroom, which she cannot bear to go near. Ruth Wilson’s face and body language give us access to the wounded and unhappy girl that grew up there. But as an adult, she can see how the farm is becoming increasingly unprofitable. Naturally, Joe resents her interventions; Barnard’s writing and Stanley’s performance show how he does not have the emotional language to express his resentment, fear and guilt in anything other than violence. And of course this violence is heading only in one direction.

Their escalating confrontation is complicated by two faces of officialdom who appear on their property. One is a prissy land agent in spotless Wellington boots; the other is a breezy estate management executive who tells Joe about how certain factors could see him favoured for the tenancy over his sister. Wilson and Stanley are both excellent performers and they are the mainstays of a valuable piece of work, but I felt the ending was contrived and a bit grandiloquent. However, the visual style and fluency of the film are obvious.
Dark River is screening at the Toronto film festival and will be released in the UK on 7 January.

Dark River: A bleak folk dirge to bury the past
Sheep shearer Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to her family’s farm in Yorkshire after an absence of 15 years, following her father Richard’s (Sean Bean) death. There, for the first time since her departure, she will encounter her brother Joe (Mark Stanley), who has been left behind taking care of their sick father and the property. Alice is back to claim the tenancy to their farm, which comes as a surprise to Joe, and so a conflict will emerge between them. At the same time, more landlords are starting to consider Alice as a threat. As she tries to salvage her relationship with her brother, she’s also fighting her traumatic memories, since their father sexually abused her as a teenager.

Dark River is a disturbingly poignant drama that immediately captures the viewer’s attention, while the exploration of its bleak, intimate subject matter takes its time to unfold. Barnard felt inspired by the 2010 novel Trespass, written by Rose Tremain, which she developed into a script along with her producer Lila Rawlings, and the story probes this tentative relationship between two adult siblings and the struggle of dealing with memory and the exploitation of a woman.

Using the tenancy as an excuse, Alice aims to confront and unearth the past. She needs to release this tension and take Joe along with her on her devastating journey. It is important for her to reach closure, even if it seems almost impossible. Alice returns more unprotected than ever, to a male-dominated environment where she has to exorcise her own demons and evolve on a personal level. Wilson, known from her roles in the series The Affair and Luther, feels like the perfect actress to portray a courageous lead character who has been a victim in the past, but who has now created a strong and independent persona in order to survive. Behind her inscrutable mask, Alice still needs a place and time to feel released from her past, and a dark river will be the perfect medium in which to bury her traumatic memories.

To enhance the verisimilitude of the story, the filmmaker carried out extensive research while building the characters in her film. She collaborated with acclaimed forensic psychiatrists who specialise in dealing with both survivors and perpetrators of sexual abuse. This meticulous process allowed Barnard to expose the core of her protagonists and, without resorting to anything artificial, to deliver characters that are bare and realistic, and which offer a natural emotional impact that can only be likened to the untouched purity of the countryside around them. With its strong attachment to its rural Yorkshire location, and echoing with the rhymes of PJ Harvey’s version of the folk song “Acre of Land”, Dark River becomes a bleak folk dirge about a buried past.

Dark River (Clio Barnard, UK) — Platform
The places you’ve lived are like the people you’ve loved: you can leave them all you want but they’ll never be gone. The inextricability of space and emotion, the way we infuse familiar places with the ghosts of our memories, is at the core of Dark River, a grim tale that explores the subtle differences between coming back and coming home. Clio Barnard’s film concerns its protagonist’s physical return to her family’s farm, but insinuates a certain reluctance to rummage through the sentimental landscape embedded under its creaking and decaying surface.

From the outside looking in, Alice’s (Ruth Wilson) return is transactional, law-abiding, and the kind of business a dutiful daughter and sister would do—but on the inside is a pool of undisclosed pain and resentment on the verge of overflowing. They say trauma comes in twos: the first time is the actual event, whereas the second is a simulacrum of that violence—a vivid reopening of the emotional wound, which in Alice’s case is triggered by the physical state of being there (again).

However, despite the potential in Barnard’s thematic setup and Wilson’s fine performance, Dark River ultimately amounts to less than the sum of its parts, weighed down by its unfocused style and unevenly paced narrative reveal. The mishandled flashbacks and cheaply shocking apparitions seem to be at odds with the film’s more nuanced sensibilities; the combination of slow and artful camerawork with messy, lukewarm thrills doesn’t work in this case, culminating in a less than gratifying—not to mention unnecessarily drastic—finale. Like Alice herself, the film attempts to cover grounds too extensive and discordant to harmonize.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on September 18, 2017, 12:05:16 AM
Dark River TIFF 2017 Review
Trauma, or more specifically the aftermath of trauma, has always been a rich topic to explore in cinema, and it’s easy to see why. Trauma itself may be experienced on one’s own or with others, but the struggle to manage and move on after the fact is an internal, individual one that can lend itself to a powerful, cinematic representation. Clio Barnard tackles this subject matter with Dark River, her follow-up to the terrific drama The Selfish Giant, by following a fractured relationship between two siblings in the same naturalist vein as her previous work. But the specificity and raw power of The Selfish Giant are absent here, and as a character-based drama around the emotional scars of an abusive family, Dark River fails in almost every respect.

The Daily] Toronto 2017: Clio Barnard’s Dark River
Clio Barnard is the fiercely intelligent, visually inventive and innovative film-maker who gave us the brilliant docu-hybrid The Arbor and then The Selfish Giant, an inspired interpretation of Oscar Wilde set in Bradford,” begins the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. “Her third feature, Dark River, is never anything other than acute and sensitive, with some very good actors giving well directed performances. But for all this movie’s qualities, it is a British social-realist picture in a well-understood idiom which perhaps doesn’t quite give us the shock of the new that her previous films delivered.”

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on September 21, 2017, 03:35:39 AM
A movie review of ​DARK RIVER.
Did he suffer?” Alice (Ruth Wilson)
Writer-director Clio Barnard knocked it out of the park, straight out of the gate, to combine two metaphors.THE ARBOR (2010) is that rare beast, an original piece of cinema. Sophomore feature THE SELFISH GIANT (2013) is a Ken Loachian social discourse ending on an emotional gut-punch. It was thus with great anticipation one walked into DARK RIVER. Unfortunately, it disappoints. I think of TYRANNOSAUR (2011) in comparison, Paddy Considine's excellent feature debut, and DARK RIVER pales. Both are about abuse and the aftermath. Both have a cathartic prison scene. Both climax with death. If TYRANNOSAUR is a shriek of pain, DARK RIVER is a whimper. Too much of this film is unsurprising.

Opening on Alice Bell (Ruth Wilson) shearing sheep among her male colleagues. Not an eye is batted at her presence (and rightly so of course). It becomes clear she is adroit at farming and a hard worker. Standing there, with wool in hand, is in sharp contrast to her star making turn as a charismatic psychopath, playing another Alice, in TV show LUTHER. A colleague, Pete (Jonah Russell), states, “There’ll always be a place for you here.” Showing her professional worth, as well as the doe-eyed attraction to her. Alice recoils at the latter. She is due to return home after 15 years, on news of the death of her father.
Packing her things, there is a hallucination of a man, Richard (Sean Bean). Causing Alice distress, this sets off audience alarm bells. Is this her father? Was she away because of incest and rape? Turns out those are correct assumptions. Are the accurate guesses down to the cleverness of the filmmaking, or the predictability of the narrative? One wanted to give talented storyteller Barnard the benefit of the doubt; but that the conversational revelation is held back to the end, means one cannot. When Alice finally releases her trauma out loud in verbal form, it is unnecessary. The discourse does not add to what we have already surmised. We are just waiting for the release, but it comes too late and too simply.
Like 2016’s THE LEVELLING, DARK RIVER is also about a prodigal daughter returning to a farm after a family member passes. The ugliness of human nature is shown undermining the beauty of the U.K. countryside. While the former is an occasional commentary on British agriculture, DARK RIVER largely eschews politics and focuses on character. Alice’s brother Joe (Mark Stanley) has let their Yorkshire sheep farm go to seed, and she is determined to take over the tenancy. Why return to the scene of the crime? Does Alice hope to write over the past with new memories? Does she think re-living the misery at the venue will provide relief? The answers are not provided. Maybe she does not know them herself

What elevates DARK RIVER is the portrayal of how difficult it is to articulate family mistreatment. Anger, resentment and shame can tie the tongue. Alice looks to be suffering from post-traumatic stress.
There was no need for an overly dramatic culmination. It does not sit right with the taciturn atmosphere. Less is often more. The conclusion is a bit of a mess. And the last scene was a mistake. Why do upsetting movies often feel the need to rewind time and end on a happier moment? Such a grace note rings false, and undermines what has preceded.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: Rebecca on September 22, 2017, 12:46:35 AM

... DARK RIVER is also about a prodigal daughter returning to a farm after a family member passes.

I don't think this guy knows what "prodigal" means, which makes it hard for me to take his review seriously.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on October 09, 2017, 06:00:56 AM
BFI London Film Festival: Dark River review – Dark journey into a family’s underworld
Writer/director Clio Barnard is a force of nature. Her magnificent first two features, The Arbor and The Selfish Giant, offered casually mythic underworlds, poisoned by poverty and rife with dysfunction.

Her new film touches on similar themes, though with less subtlety. Call it the curse of Rose Tremain (whose novel, Trespass, partly inspired the script). From Restoration to Ricky, Tremain’s pungent plots have yet to spawn a masterpiece.

A farmer (Sean Bean) sexually abuses his daughter Alice (Esme Creed-Miles) with the tacit support of his son, Joe (Aiden McCullough). Years later, with the farm virtually in ruins, Alice (Ruth Wilson), learns of her father’s death. She decides to take over the business. Semi-alcoholic Joe (Mark Stanley) has other ideas. Wilson is a brilliant actress, but is defeated by the skimpy and over-wrought script. Her Alice is not so much vulnerable as winsome. Stanley is more convincing.

Meanwhile, Creed-Miles’s raw eyes are hypnotic and various fields hum with insanely intense birdsong. Best of all, though, is P J Harvey’s bone-juddering voice, wailing “My father left me an acre of land...” as the camera roams over the haunted contents of a sideboard (including a tantalising photo of Alice and Joe’s “bitch” of a mum). Dark River is unlikely to break your heart, but stretches of the gothic landscape might just snake their way into your dreams.

Ruth Wilson & Sean Bean Head Down A ‘Dark River’ For Clio Barnard [BFI London Film Fest Review]
And now, an already-promising filmmaker puts on her wellies and heads out to the farm, with Clio Barnard (“The Arbor,” “The Selfish Giant”) and her third movie, “Dark River.” It’s her first effort in over four years, but sadly it’s not quite the triumphant return we were hoping for – although there is plenty to admire.

Barnard doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the reveal: the film is littered with flashbacks and near-hallucinatory glimpses of Bean (interestingly in a near-silent role), , which almost immediately reveal that Alice was sexually abused by her father after their mother’s death. The film’s greatest asset is the way that it’s cut: the past and present bleed into each other throughout, pushing through the sense of how her history unbalances and haunts her. Indeed, it’s in every sense except the literal, a ghost story.

It’s still evidently the work of a very talented filmmaker and is certainly never bad, but it also never lives up to its potential. Barnard has a long career ahead of her, but “Dark River” seems destined to be remembered, years now, as a minor work in her filmography.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 18, 2018, 07:07:33 AM
Rural Yorkshire remains a great setting for drama but here a story is told in a way that raises doubts.
Clio Barnard rightly drew attention with her intensely original first feature, The Arbor (2010), while her follow-up, The Sleeping Giant (2013), structurally a more conventional work, proved that her camera technique was indeed that of a master. Even though Dark River, her third feature, strikes me overall as a disappointing piece, it contains strong evidence of her qualities yet again. There is an assurance to much of the filmmaking that is striking, while the rural Yorkshire location is rendered part and parcel of the work's character and is quite admirably photographed in colour by Adriano Goldman. There is also a welcome discretion in the use of music, yet with Harry Escott as composer it extends effectively to a song in folk ballad style, 'An Acre of Land', which, sung by PJ Harvey, is heard early on and also over the end credits.

With so much of quality involved, it is with regret that I have to record the fact that for me at least the story (written by Barnard herself but inspired by Rose Tremain's novel Trespass) did not work. It begins most naturalistically with Alice (Ruth Wilson) returning home after fifteen years consequent on the death of her father. The latter's farm has been managed by her brother, Joe (Mark Stanley), but has become run down. Given her own experience tending sheep, Alice wants to make it flourish again by becoming involved herself. However, Joe looks set to be a difficult partner being at odds with his sister on many levels including resentment that she has stayed away leaving him to look after their father and, in effect, has deprived him of the chance to build an independent life of his own.

This aspect of Dark River works splendidly and is not disadvantaged by comparisons with other recent rural dramas such as The Levelling and God's Own Country. However, the troubled relationship between the siblings has grown out of past events, the nature of which is only gradually disclosed. Throughout its length, Dark River refers back to what had happened through a mixture of inserts that incorporates flashbacks, memory shots and hallucinations conjured up by Alice. This approach is far too self-conscious not to clash with the realistic tone established at the start. As the film progresses this intercutting of past and present becomes more confusing than revealing and, when the drama of the past and the drama of the present actually meld together, a sense of melodrama overwhelms the naturalism that had been so effective. It's a great shame because Barnard's skills extend to knowing exactly how to get the best out of her leading actress - Ruth Wilson is truly memorable. Whether you regard Dark River as a success or as a comparative failure will depend on your attitude to its structure and tone, but there is much here to admire whatever your verdict.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 19, 2018, 02:12:02 AM
Dark River
A tight shot of a sheep being held down and roughly sheared to the whirr of machinery opens Dark River, a bleak tale of repression and trauma set in the Yorkshire countryside. From the gentle bleating of sheep to the bracing bark of a dog, the everyday sounds that dominate the film’s soundtrack lie in eerie juxtaposition with the silence that hangs between its two main characters.

Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley deliver mesmerising performances as siblings Alice and Joe as they wrangle with their past and the resentment it has bred between them. Destructive memories shape the lives of these characters, with Sean Bean their shadowy architect. Written with funding from biomedical charity Wellcome Trust, Dark River is a creative exploration of psychological trauma. The wildness and vitality of Yorkshire, shot in bleak but majestic tones by Adriano Goldman, appears to provoke the suppressed darkness to rise to the surface.

Based on the critically acclaimed book Trespass by Rose Tremain, the movie’s relocation to the breathtaking Yorkshire countryside and the challenges of its struggling farmland gives the story a harsh, social realist edge. The hardships of the environment are written on the face of Joe, the brother who is left behind to work the land and care for their ailing father. Played with brooding brilliance by Mark Stanley, Joe is rough, weather-beaten and emotionally fragile. Unable to deal with the trauma of his past, Joe struggles and this is reflected in the state of the farm: dirty, unkempt and on the brink of falling apart.

Meanwhile, Rose, the mysterious sister who escaped this brutal paradise, returns to the farm. Wilson’s Rose is masterfully understated; she appears strong and powerful, but often the burden of her experiences flash across her face. With so much of the film’s emotional power derived from what remains unsaid, its dramatic climax feels a little jarring as we dive towards the final moments. But Harry Escott’s sumptuous score and the exquisite performances draw us in, as what is suppressed finally bursts out into the open.

The performances of Wilson and Stanley as they undulate between anger, sadness and stoicism are utterly captivating and Barnard’s direction allows these moments to linger powerfully as we piece together their shared history. Mesmerising in its intensity, Dark River is a stark warning about the power of the past.

This film is both technically excellent and beautifully executed.

Ruth Wilson’s restrained, but powerful portrayal of Alice brings Clio Barnard's third feature film, a stirring sibling drama, to life.

#RuthWilson plays Alice who returns home, following her father’s (Sean Bean) death, to claim the tenancy of the family farm that her father promised to her. Her brother, who has stayed and tried to keep the farm alive for the 15 years Alice has been away, is shocked at her return and outraged at her attempt to take the farm away from him.

Past events have damaged Alive and tainting the life she should have had. A shadow follows Alice everywhere and the longer she spends at the family farm the more the darkness envelopes her.

Writer/director #ClioBarnard has taken a very difficult subject matter and sensitively shown the destruction and conflict it continues to cause.

Films like this often evoke the 'grim up north' cliché, but this is cleverly avoided with a strong character driven screenplay. The story also shines a light on how rural farming life is being destroyed in the UK.

Through accomplished editing and stunning cinematography, #DarkRiver reinvigorates are fallen eye to the beauty of the landscape we so often take for granted.

What did you think? Let me know in the comments...

Movie Review – Dark River (2018)
Wilson’s taciturn performance is perfect for the role she is asked to perform, as a character who’s conflicted about her return home. On the one hand, she engages with her roots, while the other side of the coin is the dark memories and visions that are provoked by her past, realised by a subtly unsettling Sean Bean. It’s as she comes to terms with her surroundings that Mark Stanley comes stumbling into the film as the epitome of masculine entitlement. He’s frazzled by his grief and has let the farm fall apart, but still feels it’s his birthright to inherit the land.

The relationship between the siblings is fascinating, with the weight of 15 years apart sitting heavily on both of their shoulders. Alice has internalised her trauma, while Joe wears it all over his face, and that makes it impossible for them to co-exist. Their relationship has been poisoned and fractured by the events that occurred, which are so huge and horrible that neither of them feels they can talk about what happened. It has inflicted a fatal wound on their sibling bond and Barnard plays that smartly, with her flashbacks making the events clear while maintaining the defiantly non-explicit feel of a half-remembered nightmare.

Dark River is light on plot, but it has atmosphere in spades, enhanced by sound design that accentuates the rush of the wind and the constant trickle of the eponymous waterway. That title is handed a double meaning by the constant torrent of trauma that runs through the hearts of both protagonists with the unstoppable forward momentum of a cascading current.
It’s that level of exquisite poetry that elevates the movie and lifts Barnard into the world in which she belongs – that of Ken Loach, Shane Meadows and Edgar Wright – the absolute best of British.

Dark River - review

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 20, 2018, 08:17:48 AM
Dark River film review

About Sean from 1.19 min

Same review as above
Following the death of her father (Sean Bean), Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to the farm she was brought up on to claim her rite to the tenancy. Her brother Joe (Mark Stanley) has been looking after the farm, along with their dad, and disputes her claim and wants the farm for himself.

Through occasional flashbacks we learn of Alice’s abuse at the hands of her father. Whilst it, thankfully, doesn’t go into detail we’re shown enough to understand Alice’s 15-year absence from the farm and her awkward relationship with her brother as she attempts to repair the damage between them.

Dark River is a terrific showcase for Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley. Both look completely at home on a farm, whether it’s sheering sheep or fixing gates, and their clashes over what’s best for their land leads to some devastating consequences. Wilson produces a quite heart-breaking performance and skilfully conveys Alice’s desire to prove herself and her need for some kind of closure from the traumatic events of her past.

Holding his own against Wilson, Mark Stanley gives an excellent performance as Joe. His conflicted emotions at the return of his sister and the future of the farm make for intriguing viewing and in one uncomfortable scene his drunken rage is one of the most frightening rampages I’ve seen for a long time.
Although he hardly has any dialogue or screen-time, Sean Bean’s weathered face and gruff exterior create a thoroughly believable character, and his Northern presence is felt throughout the film and within the walls of the dilapidated farmhouse.

The other leading character in Dark River is the unforgiving Yorkshire countryside. Beautifully filmed with some exquisite shots of green fields, hills and rolling landscapes director, Clio Barnard, makes full use of the surroundings and accompanying weather.

Dark River is home to exceptional performances and a gritty, albeit slightly grim, Northern drama. Well worth a watch.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 21, 2018, 05:16:46 AM
Dark River Review
Indeed, there’s a lot in Dark River that could be from a 19th century novel. There’s a big house at its core, there’s a near-death from exposure in the wilderness, and its central conflict revolves around who left the family home and who stayed. More contemporary is the frankness about sexual abuse.

Mercifully, we’re spared the details, but the family house Alice returns to is one big trigger warning — we’re served abrupt cuts to the past where her younger self (Esme Creed-Miles) is menaced by her father, played by Sean Bean.

Bean’s a smart piece of casting: he’s as Yorkshire as hating Lancashire, and that craggy face’s capacity for menace is fully exploited here. He has next to no dialogue, but still turns in a fully realised character, playing this abuser not as a vampire but as conflicted, ingratiating and ultimately pathetic.

Sean Bean? Well, he doesn’t have much to do but does it well.

Sean Bean makes an impression (and gives the film someone else to put on the poster) but the flashback scenes in which we meet him seem to provide much of the dramatic thrust and are less successful than those in the present

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 22, 2018, 12:21:55 AM
Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley deliver mesmerising performances as siblings Alice and Joe as they wrangle with their past and the resentment it has bred between them. Destructive memories shape the lives of these characters, with Sean Bean their shadowy architect.

 With so much of the film’s emotional power derived from what remains unsaid, its dramatic climax feels a little jarring as we dive towards the final moments. But Harry Escott’s sumptuous score and the exquisite performances draw us in, as what is suppressed finally bursts out into the open.

The performances of Wilson and Stanley as they undulate between anger, sadness and stoicism are utterly captivating and Barnard’s direction allows these moments to linger powerfully as we piece together their shared history. Mesmerising in its intensity, Dark River is a stark warning about the power of the past.

The brief but recurring flashbacks are, of course, the key to understanding Alice’s journey and Joe’s mindset. Both siblings carry the emotional burden of their childhoods in differing ways. It is mostly Alice who suffers from the traumatic flashbacks which only increase as she returns first to her family home, and then to her childhood bedroom.

 Though he utters one line throughout the film (and a haunting line it is), Sean Bean cuts a haunting figure as Alice’s deceased father, lingering in the corners of the farmhouse and in the depths of Alice’s memories. 
With strong performances, Dark River manages to carry itself well and is thoroughly engaging right up until its ending which is a step too far and feels unbelievable in comparison to the rest of the film. It might convince some audiences, but overall Dark River deserved a far more compelling culmination to round off an otherwise achingly beautiful film.

Their father, he tells her, did not die without suffering. He asked for you. Why weren’t you here? We know why, just as we know why she won’t go upstairs to her childhood bedroom. We know because, in the frequent flashbacks, she sees her father abusing her in that bedroom — not in detail, but we get the gist — and she sees him coming down those stairs, and because she sees it, then we see it. The father is played by a near-silent Sean Bean and his presence not only feels like a surprisingly cheap and clumsy stunt, but also denies the narrative the complexity and nuance that, to my mind, it would have to have if we were going to use words like ‘powerful’ and ‘affecting’.

As both know the truth about their father, but refuse to address it, most of the action is centred on a brother and sister circling each other, eyeing each other, and rowing viciously. As Sean Bean hovers. Beneath a cement sky.

From the offset, Barnard puts huge emphasis on driving home the idea of a great family secret at the heart of the story. She does this by allowing two separate narrative to run side by side, using flashback and dreamlike sequences, the director manages to slowly reveal the powerful dynamics between Alice, Joe and their now deceased father, depicted with huge expertise by Sean Bean.

Dark River review: a beautifully acted film that gets under your fingernails

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 23, 2018, 12:04:32 AM
Film of the week: Dark River drags a history of abuse into the present
  Alice is followed around the farmstead by manifestations not only of her deceased father (a sombre, mostly silent Sean Bean) but also of herself (Esmé Creed-Miles) and Joe (Aiden McCullough) as they were when she was last at home. Her absence for the past 15 years, and her planned improvements to the farm to secure her claim, provoke Joe’s vicious rage. This psychological powder keg will explode in violence, an act of quasi-revenge against Alice’s memory of her father and her brother’s complicity in his crimes.

Despite a sadly muddled finale, this is a superior drama, led by Wilson’s steely and focused performance and cleanly, concisely directed by Barnard. Though Alice is bitterly reserved, her face contorts with turmoil when she learns that her father suffered towards the end. She and her brother communicate mostly via barked and broken dialogue.

In contrast to these frustratingly scant attempts to come to a new understanding, their past selves are shown playing and working together harmoniously – innocents frolicking on the farm. As Joe, Stanley brings physical heft to his grunted dialogue and unhinged violence, and becomes unexpectedly eloquent when enumerating the many precious species of wildlife living in his hay meadow. The slow revelation to the audience of his knowledge of the abuse that Alice suffered is carefully controlled.

 Alice’s memories of her abuse are edited into the narrative. These cuts – tricking the eye into believing that her assailant is alive again, and close at hand – evoke the fear of a child not safe in her bed at night, listening out for a step on the landing. It’s a fear that Alice has never shaken off. Occasionally, Alice and young Alice are literally side by side, with Alice’s desires literally blocked by a vision of her past, unprotected self. It’s enough for Alice to be burdened with these reminders, unable to escape the trauma: the flashbacks spare the audience the details of her assault.

Dark River is a fantastic film about moving on and forgiveness that does a great job of showing instead of just telling
The film has fantastic acting from Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley and Sean Bean as they portray a difficult circumstance
The pair clash over everything - farming techniques, their inheritance and - clearly - the shadow of their father’s actions towards Alice.

This is a sparse film which does a great job of showing, not telling.

Little is said, little is needed to - the performances from Wilson and Mark Stanley are more than enough to carry the tale where it needs to go.

Sean Bean (Dead again! Is it in his contracts?!) also excels in a tricky role.
His blurred perception in this particular take on child abuse is deftly done.

Film Of The Week
Cold comfort farm
With minimal dialogue, every nuance is expressed through body language and Stanley and Wilson both give understated yet powerhouse performances, with the latter particularly notable for her sheep-shearing skills and her portrayal of a woman still haunted by her abusive father's actions.

There's a telling moment as Alice freezes with fear on entering the family home and is unable to go up to her old bedroom. Her painful past is revealed slowly through flashbacks with a ghostlike Sean Bean delivering a short but memorable performance as her perverted father.

Not for the faint-hearted, it's a strong contender for most gruelling film of the year.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 24, 2018, 05:03:51 AM
Dark River reviewed by Mark Kermode

We’re on very familiar earthy rural feelbad territory here, with Sean Bean haunting the farmhouse malevolently in flashback as the siblings’ father. Indeed, there’s an unnecessary barrage of flashbacks, especially when the film spills over into melodrama, with Esme Creed-Miles and Aiden McCollough playing the younger Alice and Joe

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 25, 2018, 04:51:43 AM
Dark River review: ‘Tense British thriller which packs an uncomfortable punch’
On arrival, she’s confronted by her brother Joe (Game of Thrones‘ Mark Stanley), who’s been tending the farm for the 15 years Alice has been gone, believing the farmland should be handed to him considering his dedication to it. This sparks a nasty competition between brother and sister, both trying to prove the farm to be rightfully theirs. However, as Alice’s harrowing memories resurface thick and fast, she has to decide whether reliving the past is worth it for a shot at managing her own land – and is it worth losing her brother over it?

 The cast is rounded out by Bean’s menacing portrayal of an abusive father, and the brilliant Joe Dempsie’s David, Alice’s ex-boyfriend.
With such a strong cast, Barnard doesn’t need to over-direct, choosing to focus on telling the story. Her use of close-ups, establishing shots of the vacant farmland, and long periods of silence all help to build the tension, an unnerving position for the viewer. Pairing this with the flashbacks to Alice’s history with her father, Dark River is, at times, incredibly uncomfortable to watch – it’s what’s alluded to and unseen that makes us fearful for her.

Dark River is a strong return for Barnard. Its sensitive story-line, told by some of the UK’s strongest talent, and makes for a tough, gripping watch.

Bean has a completely ungrateful small role.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on February 28, 2018, 03:16:30 AM
Sean Bean portrays the sibling’s father, his only appearances are in flashbacks and imaginations in Alice’s memory. Whilst his role is relatively small and he hardly has any lines of dialogue he fulfills the role well providing the picture what it needed to tell the story.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on March 03, 2018, 02:46:47 PM
Bean is brilliantly creepy when he appears, without having to utter much in the way of dialogue.

The rawness of the subject matter might be hard for some filmgoers to contemplate.

However you will do well to find a more honest film in 2018 and it would be a shame to miss a movie by a director who is so on top of her game.!/2018/03/facing-demons-dark-river.html
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on June 25, 2018, 03:25:05 PM
Movie Review: ‘Dark River’: A Sheep-Farm Murder Ballad
1h 30min  | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | June 29, 2018 (USA)

Alice (Ruth Wilson) grew up on a Northern Yorkshire sheep farm. Now, she’s seeing the world via the international sheep-shearer circuit—lots of sweating, bleating, b-a-a-a-h-ing, and cascading wool.

Then, news that her father (Sean Bean of “The Lord of the Rings”) has gone to meet his maker. Home she goes, 15 years after fleeing the run-down mud pit of a farm, where her older brother Joe (Mark Stanley), who’s been holding down the fort all the while, resents the heck out of her prodigal-daughter return. Even more vehemently, he resents her attempting to claim the land that has been bequeathed to her.

 It’s a sibling rivalry outstripped only by Cain and Abel. Joe’s let the walls fall in and the sheep go ragged. He refuses to kill barn rats because an owl family has taken up residence. He won’t let Alice cut the fields because he’s grown to cherish nature and can quote the exact numbers (in thousands) of insects, mice, voles, and spiders that would lose their homes in the fields.

Almost Needs Subtitles

The thick Yorkshire accents are just about as difficult to understand as French, and yet once the ear acclimatizes, you feel you’re having an authentic foreign experience, being a fly on the wall of a little North Yorkshire slice of sheep farmer existence. You go to auctions, and listen to brother-sister disputes on whether to spray the sheep or dunk them in a shallow well of disinfectant. Joe’s been dunking for 15 years, so they dunk, because Joe’s a big alcoholic, rage-aholic man by now.

We watch Alice talk to the tenant land trust that owns the farm. We watch her rekindle an old flame in a bar. Watch her skin and clean a rabbit for dinner. I doubt very much that it was a politically correct fake movie rabbit, but Alice is so fluidly familiar with the process, one wonders how much actual skinning Ruth Wilson had to do, to learn to make it look so realistic.

One also wonders why on earth Alice would want this gray, perennially cloud-covered, desolate, wind-swept, sheep-bleating, dog-barking existence, haunted as it is by nightmarish, shame-ravaged memories.

The duration of her teen years were poisoned by patriarchal incestuous rape, and no amount of waterfall showers at the local swimming hole can cleanse those memories away. It’s a jarring juxtaposition of “There’s no place like home” and “You can never go home again.”

Spectacular Acting

Director Clio Barnard, having such skilled actors at her disposal, basically just turns them loose and lets them do their thing. Wilson’s fascinating face lets you read her thoughts, and Stanley (“Game of Thrones”) rages masterfully, allowing us to see the subtlety of how he himself was damaged, and where the source of his drinking lies.

The feeling one leaves with is depression. And the question inevitably becomes—why tell such a story? We know the world is full of bad things; we don’t need to be reminded. The main mission of art is to uplift, but if depression’s your thing, and you want a good dose of it, this is surely a beautiful way to go about getting it.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on June 26, 2018, 01:25:25 PM
VOD film review: Dark River
Clio Barnard is one of the most exciting and talented British filmmakers working today. Dark River sees her move away from the raw naturalism coaxed out of non-professionals actors to work with recognised screen names, but the result has no less intensity or emotion.

Inspired by Rose Tremain’s book, Trespass, it stars Ruth Wilson as Alice, an estranged daughter and sister who moves back to her family farm after her father dies. Trying to reclaim the estate, while struggling to reconcile with her volatile brother (Mark Stanley), the stage is set for a 90-minutes drama as brooding as its gloomy title.

Indeed, the result is as much horror story as it is family drama, as the ghost of traumas past haunt Wilson’s expressions, as well as the harsh rural landscape. After The Levelling and God’s Own Country, Dark River completes an unofficial trilogy of bleak rural tales from the heartlands of Britain – a Gothic pastoral that conjures up an eerily empty house, harsh environments, pent-up emotions and barely buried conflict. At the core of it is the feeling of belonging on one’s own land, and it’s telling, perhaps, that this story should arrive as Britain ponders and negotiates its own future.

Here, that takes the form of Alice and her brother deciding the fate of the farm – a decision they clash over, their opposition fuelled by the unspoken resentment over the fact that she left years ago and he stayed.

Barnard is an expert at drawing strong, evocative performances from her cast and that same understated pain and vulnerability is unabashedly on display from both leads. Stanley, who plays Grenn in Game of Thrones, is genuinely intimidating – only beaten by Sean Bean, whose traumatic father figure lingers in unspoken flashbacks. Wilson, meanwhile, sheers sheep like she’s been doing it for years, investing her resilient survivor with the kind of everyday realism that has singled out Barnard’s work from the pack in recent years. The result is a moving study of unspoken grief and aggressive denial, of violent memories looming over an isolated presence, and the strength it takes to steer the future out of its shadow.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on June 27, 2018, 06:11:50 AM
Film Review: Dark River
Dark River is going to require a whole lot of new synonyms for “bleak.”

It’s about incest, sexual abuse and their horrific after-effects. Its characters are marked by poverty, alcoholism and violence. It features gruesome closeups of dead animals, including the onscreen disemboweling of a rabbit. And it’s all set in the muddiest, most desolate part of Yorkshire, on a tumbledown sheep farm overrun with rats.

Don’t expect a Hollywood remake anytime soon.

Yet as much as you might want to look away from Dark River, you can’t. The direction is assured, inventive, precise. The performances are compelling. And while the writing is often a little too deliberately obscure, once it becomes clear where the story is heading, it moves forward with the force of classic tragedy.

Very loosely adapted from the Rose Tremain novel Trespass by filmmaker Clio Barnard—a gifted but freewheeling interpreter, whose previous The Selfish Giant had very little to do with Oscar Wilde’s fable—it begins in the midst of sheep-shearing season. Alice, an itinerant farmhand, has just learned of her father’s death. And so, with grim reluctance, she returns home for the first time in 15 years—to see her brother, Joe, and to claim the property she feels is rightfully hers.

Her brother has other ideas about who the farm belongs to; after all, he’s been running it since Alice abruptly left in her teens. But he’s also been running it into the ground. And as they fight, over everything—should the sheep be dipped, or sprayed?—Alice begins to confront her own horrible memories, of a father who crept into her bed at night, of a brother who did nothing to stop him. Or, maybe, even helped.

This is the grimmest of material, but unlike Tim Roth’s similar but shockingly explicit film The War Zone, Barnard chooses to keep the actual abuse in the past and offscreen. It’s there in glances—the way the father (a mostly silent, intimidating Sean Bean) stares at his daughter, the way the teenager (a painfully vulnerable Esme Creed-Miles) wilts under his gaze.

Bean is an imposing but fleeting presence, seen only by the adult Alice in flashes and flashbacks. She escaped him, long ago. But his horrors haunt her—so much that when she does return home, she can’t even go into her old room. She beds down instead in a half-abandoned hut. At least there, maybe, she can lock out the memories.

Ruth Wilson, a gifted British stage actress probably best known here for Showtime’s “The Affair,” does a great deal with very little as Alice. Barnard has, very deliberately, resisted the temptation to give her any big speeches, let alone a this-is-how-I-suffered monologue. Instead, Wilson is forced to speak to us through expression and movement—the way her eyes widen when she recalls another awful moment, the way she shrinks from her old home’s upstairs.

And her mostly silent mood is answered by her brother’s explosive ones, as he storms about the farm, often drunk, occasionally violent. Is he simply mirroring the behavior he grew up with? Or is he trapped inside himself, and with his own old disgust at what he did, or didn’t do? Mark Stanley—one of Bean’s “Game of Thrones” colleagues—leaves you wondering.

There is much else that is elliptical in this film, and its deliberate ambiguity may be too much for some audiences. (Some of the confusion may have come in post, too—judging by the credits, one character, the siblings’ mother, was eliminated at the last minute.) Another hurdle? The thick Yorkshire accents that, even for Americans used to British imports, are sometimes impenetrable.

But this is a film that, right from its opening song, sung by the great PJ Harvey, artfully takes you into a world of pain and despair. And yet, in its final moments, offers just the smallest promise of healing and hope.

Dark River (NR)
Were it not crucial to Dark River’s sense of realism that it retain patches of dialogue — sometimes sparse, sometimes desperately overlapping — Clio Bernard’s psychological drama could have worked without words. Part of this stems from the fact that the story is fairly rote, as Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns home to the family farm after the death of her father and is forced to unearth the familial traumas that she has tried to keep buried. But it’s more to do with how superbly writer-director Barnard has tied it all together. Ghosts flash in and out of Alice’s vision as easily as the living, and a recurring motif of water — Alice’s swimming; emotional highs accompanied by torrential rain — seems to drown the characters rather than wash their baggage away.

It’s in Alice’s battle with her brother Joe (Mark Stanley) that the film is at its most compelling. He’s reluctant to hand over the land, given the fact that he’s been taking care of it (and their father) for a decade and a half in her absence, and Wilson and Stanley swing from tenderness to rage without making either seem forced — or at all predictable. As the latter emotion inevitably builds, Dark River loses some of its certainty to the demands of telling a story with a beginning, middle and end, but the final scene, which relies almost entirely on expressions rather than words, is almost enough to make up for it.

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on June 28, 2018, 12:24:41 AM
Dark River
Alice is played in flashbacks by Esme Creed-Miles and in the main body of the film by Ruth Wilson, both of whom are extremely good. Quite aside from her emotive power (and sheep-shearing skills!) Wilson deserves credit for pulling off a flawless West Yorkshire accent, one that doesn’t sound affected when placed alongside natives like Sean Bean and Mark Stanley, the latter of whom comes close to stealing the whole film as Alice’s violent, troubled brother Joe. As for Bean, his role promises something to match his extraordinary recent television work for Jimmy McGovern (Broken) and Tony Grisoni (Red Riding), but it seems to have been cut down too much in the edit. Furthering this suspicion, the end credits mention a role for Una McNulty, who doesn’t appear in the final cut at all.

Despite these problems, Dark River is a visually striking film that’s confident enough to make you forget the risks Barnard is taking here. It is, after all, her most plot-driven film to date, and her first to feature big-name actors. She appears totally unfazed by both of these challenges, enough to make me suspect Dark River‘s weaknesses will be seen as a stumble in her career rather than a fall. There are signs, certainly, that this new wave of British rural drama might already be developing its own cliches: the farm full of dark family secrets, the townie-baiting scenes of animal slaughter. But Dark River also contains some truly refreshing, unique material, from the haunting underwater footage to PJ Harvey’s plaintive rendition of the English folk song ‘An Acre of Land’, which begins and ends the film.

Review: A ‘Dark River’ of Abuse Separates a Brother and Sister from Their Inheritance
The Yorkshire depicted in Clio Barnard’s third feature, “Dark River,” has much in common with that of Francis Lee’s recent triumph, “God’s Own Country”: a place of hard labor and lowering skies, of bleating sheep and repressed sexuality. Yet even in the swelling canon of British rural miserabilism, this unrelentingly intense psychodrama burrows beneath the skin.

Much of that is due to Ruth Wilson’s tough, traumatized performance as Alice, an itinerant sheep shearer who returns home to claim tenancy of the family farm. Fifteen years have passed, and her estranged brother, Joe (a fine Mark Stanley), who nursed their terminally ill father while the farm crumbled around them, is not having it. He might be a bitter drunk — and the farm, under his stewardship, a vermin-infested husk of the smallholding Alice remembers — but he feels equally owed his inheritance. And, unlike Alice, entirely unable to share it.

Gorgeously photographed by the Brazilian cinematographer Adriano Goldman, “Dark River” is a raw ballad of doom and damage. As in Ms. Barnard’s first feature, the 2011 experimental documentary “The Arbor,” it broodingly excavates the lingering grip of childhood abuse. Economic anxieties press in from outside, but it’s the farm’s fusty interiors, where every cranny conceals a flinching flashback, that spark Alice’s worst memories. As the ghost of her father (indelibly played by Sean Bean) slips in and out of the frame, she turns from steely survivor to terrified child. It almost hurts to look at her

Sibling rivalry simmers in the film Dark River
Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair) is on blistering form as tenacious farm worker, Alice, whose suffering is swallowed down in difficult silences and emotional distance. After the death of her father (Sean Bean) Alice returns home to apply for the tenancy of the family’s farm against the wishes of her long-suffering brother Joe (Mark Stanley) who nursed their sick father while keeping the farm barely afloat. Their taciturn exchanges are compelling in their awkwardness - tension seeping out from the unsaid until it boils over into physical conflict. Barnard’s dialogue is breathtakingly real: the first encounter between Alice and Joe in 15 years veers from cumbersome small talk to long held grudges and potent questions. The naturalistic performances of Wilson and Stanley draw attention to what is unspoken and suppressed. Together they bring emotional gravitas even to the film’s smallest moments. Dark River is a drama about secrets and silence and the damage caused is pervasive. Flashbacks are notoriously tricky to pull off but Barnard (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant) weaves them into the action with unrivalled lightness and subtlety as Alice’s traumatic past intrudes upon the present. A sinister Sean Bean continues to lurk in Alice’s life to such chilling degree that we begin to feel him pressing in at the very edges of the frame. In light of this, the way Alice mobilises her inner strength to try and rebuild her relationship with Joe - a relationship that seems fundamentally broken - makes for both hopeful and painful viewing. Attempts to save the crumbling farm begin to stand for something much more profound.

The harsh realities of agricultural work form the brutal and raw backdrop to this unfolding drama supported by British stalwarts Film 4, Screen Yorkshire and the BFI. The complexity of tenantfarming and the conflicts between financial survival and respecting the natural landscape filter into the very essence of the story. Physically and emotionally, Dark River, is rooted in the Yorkshire landscape. Its atmosphere makes for heady and potent drama.


‘Dark River’ Review: A Tired Drama that Lives Down to its Name
Most everything about Dark River feels tired.

The narrative around a taciturn woman who can skin a rabbit without flinching but is also fundamentally brittle is tired. That all we see her do for 90 minutes is react to the decisions made and actions taken by the men in her life is tired. Even the title is tired, with all the vivacity of a generic production placeholder (it’s literally being released on the same day as a film with the synonymous title Black Water).

The cinematography, too, has a lackluster lethargy to it, using the austere bucolic majesty of Yorkshire as a crutch. As films like last year’s The Florida Project have demonstrated, in skilled hands cinematographic beauty can be found just about anywhere, but Dark River is a data point from the opposite end of the spectrum. Shots more often than not give the impression that a camera was plopped in the corner of a field and pointed at the actors with a shrug and a “that’ll do.”

There are some welcome exceptions, like a handful of sequences with decidedly fetal imagery—again, perhaps a somewhat overplayed hand, but beautiful nonetheless—but these are unfortunately the exception as opposed to the rule. Like many things about the film, the end result, visually, is not genuinely bad so much as just fine, but coming from an accomplished cinematographer such as Adriano Goldman, whose credits include Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre and six episodes of The Crown, one expects so much more.

Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley preform admirably as estranged brother-sister pair Alice and Joe, vying for the tenancy of the family farm after the death of their father, but in the end more is placed on their shoulders than perhaps any actor could successfully bear. Dark River was loosely adapted from Rose Tremain’s novel Trespass, and that the film is based on a novel that relies heavily on literature’s particular affinity for exploring interior lives—widely regarded as a particular weakness of film as a medium—is evident throughout. The basic cinematic translation of an interior monologue that a book could fully detail is a long take of an actor looking troubled. Far too often Dark River falls into the trap of films happy to leave things at this bare minimum, as if under the impression that if an actor acts hard enough, for lack of a better phrase, they can somehow telepathically broadcast their character’s thoughts to the audience. Ultimately, there is a fine line between being ambiguous, which is the degree of uncertainty inherent to the fundamental ability to ever truly enter the mind of another person, and opacity, which is staring at an actor staring into space.

On the supporting front, Sean Bean makes for a properly menacing “ghost” as Alice and Joe’s abusive father, Richard, in elegantly integrated flashbacks. If there is one regard in which Dark River excels, it is in editing. Flashback sequences intercut past and present seamlessly in a way that feels utterly natural—a feat which looks effortless when pulled off, but that relatively few films successfully accomplish, especially considering the frequency with which films utilize flashbacks. Ironically, an element that in many other films represents a weak point is one of Dark River‘s strengths, of which there are unfortunately few.

Dark River

 Generally favorable reviews 
based on 20 Critics

Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on July 03, 2018, 10:41:15 AM
Dark River (2017) Blu Ray & DVD (Arrow Academy)

Well-made gloom porn
The film does end on a slightly redemptive note. However, it isn’t enough to shake the overall impression that it’s all a large dose of artistically-mounted gloom porn rather than the truly explorative piece of work that it might have been. 

Director and Cast Interviews
Sean Bean (understandably) appears a little uncomfortable and humbled while talking about his role as the sexually abusive father.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on July 06, 2018, 01:16:46 AM
Sean Bean's charisma gives life to the character of the executioner from the past that Barnard evokes more than it shows.  No need to dwell on what happened and to show it very explicitly when everything is viscerally felt in Alice's eyes.
Title: Re: Dark River reviews
Post by: patch on July 08, 2018, 04:02:26 AM
This film is both disturbing and beautiful.  It's very emotional.
 A very human movie at the bottom.
 Not necessarily for all audiences but a beautiful film anyway ...