Dark River (2017)

British director Clio Barnard has been exploring local stories, primarily ones that deal with working-class lives, since her debut feature The Arbor (2010) and then again with The Selfish Giant (2013).


I think Clio Barnard is a very talented director, and I think there are sequences here that are beautifully edited and put together: nicely shot, good use of sound and aural cues, and of course with the acting of Ruth Wilson (who is superb). It’s another film set in the North English countryside — not so much God’s Own Country as The Levelling (or indeed Barnard’s earlier films, though they were more urban I feel) — but here the glowering oppressive sky really is that, a crushing force on everyone. Like that latter film, it deals with poisoned relationships between fathers and daughters (I think now of Sunset Song too in that respect), and it doesn’t take very many flashbacks for it to become clear just what that is going to turn out to be. In fact, it’s obvious from the very first second of the very first flashback just where this particular arc is tending, but the way it’s developed in a melodramatic final act seems somewhat heavy-handedly literal. However, the acting (by Wilson, mainly), and the sheer filmmaking nous is for me enough to carry the film. Sure it’s dark and it moves lugubriously, but it is a properly cinematic film.

Dark River film posterCREDITS
Director/Writer Clio Barnard; Cinematographer Adriano Goldman; Starring Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley, Sean Bean; Length 89 minutes.
Seen at Curzon Bloomsbury, London, Wednesday 28 February 2018.