Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Coyote Lake - 2019 film review

Coyote Lake is a film directed and (with Thomas James Bond) written by Sara Seligman. It begins in fairly conventional thrillerish fashion and then veers off in a rather more interesting direction. I've seen mixed reviews of it, but I thought it was pretty good, a rather more thoughtful piece of work than many a modern thriller.

The set-up is that a mother and daughter (played by Adriana Barraza and Camila Mendes) run a small guest house on the border between the USA and Mexico. They have got into a habit of drugging unpleasant guests (typically 'coyotes', that is, human traffickers) and then robbing and murdering them. The bodies of their victims are wrapped in plastic, taken out by boat on to the eponymous lake, and dumped into the water. The women share their lives with a mute handyman (Neil Sandilands) whom the mother occasionally takes to her bed. The mother is highly controlling and ruthless - we get the strong impression that for her, killing has become a way of life rather than a passport to a better and more prosperous existence - while her daughter is dutiful but not so bereft of human sympathy.

Two criminals, one of them wounded, show up. The younger, fitter man (Andres Veles) threatens to shoot the women unless they offer help and accommodation. But the film starts to move in a particularly interesting way as the young man finds himself attracted to the daughter. Needless to say, this relationship seems destined not to end well, and the final image is haunting, as is the photography throughout.

There is an eerie, under-stated quality to this film which ensures that it is a cut above quite a lot of the competition in the crowded field of psychological suspense. Not everything is fully explained, but for once I didn't find this irritating, but in keeping with the otherworldly mood. 



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