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Review: Black Pond (Directed by Will Sharpe and Tom Kingsley) (Fantasia 2012)

Jul. 24, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: One day, while walking his dog, Tom (Chris Langham) meets Blake (Colin Hurley), a friendly, albeit bizarre man who seems to be wandering about aimlessly. They strike up a conversation, and Tom invites Blake home to meet his wife, Sophie (Amanda Hadingue). One thing leads to another, and eventually Blake ends up staying with the pair for a few days, while their daughters (Anna O'Grady & Helen Cripps) come for a visit with their lovesick roommate Tim (Will Sharpe). Eventually, Blake ends up dead, and rather than call the authorities, they inexplicably decide to bury him in the woods themselves.

REVIEW: BLACK POND is a strange, but rather wonderful addition to this year's Fantasia lineup. More than most films here, BLACK POND isn't really a genre film, even though it deals with the classic horror trope of “how to get rid of a dead body”. Rather, co-director/writers Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe (who also plays Tim) have crafted a film that seemingly owes less to the Coen Bros., or Ben Wheatley than to Christopher Guest and Armando Iannucci (IN THE LOOP).

The film, for all of it's artfulness, is framed by mockumentary footage and interviews from a Hard Copy-style British tabloid show exploiting the family after they've been cleared by the authorities for seemingly doing away with Blake. From there, Kingsley and Sharpe spend most of their time focusing on the intriguing relationship that developed between the kindly Blake and his hosts- who, entering middle-age, have seen their marriage fall apart to the extent that they seem to only harbour the utmost contempt for each other.

Their desperate existence is juxtaposed with that of their daughters, who live in London with Tim. In the present day, Tim- visits a strange psychologist (stand-up comedian Simon Amstell) who exploits his patient's confidential story about Blake- leading to the tabloids getting a hold of it and turning it into a media sensation.

Sound confusing? Well, in print- maybe, but it all cuts together quite nicely as a film. Apparently, it was made for only 25,000 Euros, but you'd never know it- as they've managed to make a rather beautiful-looking film, full of the lush English countryside- and boasting a slick indie rock soundtrack, that seems rather grand for such a low-budget outing. The acting is incredibly polished, with a brilliant performance by Chris Langham as the somewhat doddering and dense head of the family. Langham's so good that I wondered why I'd never seen him before- until doing a little google research, which showed me exactly why he doesn't pop up in films too often. Suffice to say, he brings a lot of experience to his part as a man with some skeletons in his closet- making him all the more convincing, if for a tragic and unseemly reason.

As the affable Blake, Colin Hurley's just as good, with him perfectly walking that thin line between lovable eccentric and creepy- never succumbing to the latter. Everyone else, including co-director/writer Sharpe are excellent, and it's really a terrific ensemble cast. So- while BLACK POND caught me a bit off guard, in that I was expecting something a little more genre-like, I was pleasantly surprised and even a little moved by the dark comedy I received instead. It's a great little film, and hopefully one that gets discovered by North American audiences soon.

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