Suspicious River
In all wrong places. Leila finds something helpful in Gary ... but should she trust him?
dir-scr Lynne Stopkewich
with Molly Parker, Callum Keith Rennie, Mary Kate Welsh, Joel Bissonnette, Deanna Milligan, Sarah Jane Redmond, Norman Armour, Byron Lucas, Michael Shanks, Paul Jarrett, Ingrid Tesch, Don S Davis
release UK 31.Aug.01
00/Canada 1h32

4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
After her disturbing debut Kissed, Canadian writer-director Stopkewich is back with another young woman's intensely personal and harrowing journey.

Once again, Parker takes the lead role, this time as Leila, a young woman working in an isolated motel in Suspicious River, Washington. She begins to sell herself to her customers both for money (saving up for something she can't quite identify) and for the companionship she doesn't get from her husband (Bissonnette). Then she meets Gary (Rennie), who combines mean roughness with tender flattery ... and she's drawn in by some strange need to both give and receive both pain and pleasure. Meanwhile, her life has odd parallels with a young local girl (Welsh) with a frightening home life.

The film has a visual and narrative eeriness that grabs hold and carries us through this often horrific story. Leila's backstory is ingeniously woven into the fabric of the film as well--never sentimental or going for the obvious shock value. Stopkewich is nearly invisible as a director, understated and yet powerfully in control, guiding us carefully through an indescribable subject with intelligence, wit and meaning.

Parker is equally subtle, almost blank-faced as Leila herself hasn't a clue what she wants or why she's acting the way she is. As the light slowly begins to dawn on her, her desire for self-destruction becomes overwhelmingly palpable, even as a glimmer of hope lies underneath. Rennie is also remarkable in yet another chameleon-like performance that shifts seamlessly between charm and menace. Yes, it's all more than a little arty and obtuse, but the engaged viewer will be rewarded with insight into relationships and self-respect ... in a completely unexpected way.
strong themes and situations, violence, language cert 18 24.Aug.01

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CRCowtan, Ontario: 4 out of 5 stars "This film is disturbing in its realistic portrayal of small-town misogynism. The film is cleverly constructed so that the viewer passes little judgement on the female character as she makes bad decisions--many of which seem like good decisions until we discover the true nature of the 'hero'." (30.Jul.09)
© 2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall