The King Tide Review

The King Tide is an intriguing genre mash-up, reminiscent of the classic sci-fi-tinged morality tales Rod Serling used to write.

Last Updated on April 30, 2024

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PLOT: In a remote fishing village, a wrecked boat containing a baby washes up on the shore. Rescued by the local mayor (Clayne Crawford) and his wife (Lara Jean Chorostecki), they adopt the baby and name her Isla. As it turns out, the child has mysterious healing powers and can even fill the sea with fish, allowing the island to be completely self-sufficient. As she grows into a young woman (Alix West Lefler), Isla becomes almost like a deity, but when her powers fail, the town becomes desperate to protect their way of life, no matter what the cost may be to Isla herself.

REVIEW: The King Tide reminded me a lot of the type of genre-tinged morality tales we used to get from Rod Serling’s version of The Twilight Zone. The premise is pretty intriguing. Imagine a child existed in your town whose mere presence guaranteed your health and livelihood would always be intact. What would become of such a town?

In The King Tide, the residents of this island village have cut themselves off from civilization completely, with them afraid that should news of Isla’s powers get out, she’ll be taken away from them. They don’t even allow electricity, and the men pass the time beating each other up, knowing that no matter how bloodied they are, Isla can patch them up in seconds. For kids, their favourite game is eating poison berries and having Isla save them just as they’re about to die. It’s exploitation through and through, but no one sees it that way.

But what happens when Isla’s powers fade? As the movie shows,  nothing good, with it becoming a classic tale of paradise lost, and how good intentions and “the needs of the many” can turn people into monsters. It’s hard to categorize The King Tide in any genre, with it having elements of sci-fi, horror and drama mixed in. It’s a very compelling yarn, graced by atmospheric Newfoundland locations that are gorgeously shot by director Christian Sparkes and his DP Mike McLaughlin.

the king tide clayne Crawford

With a tight 100-minute running time, The King Tide is propulsive without feeling rushed, as you get a sense of the community and power dynamics between the residents well before things go wrong. Clayne Crawford’s Bobby becomes the town’s mayor due to his access to Isla, but the real power belongs to his mother-in-law, Frances Fisher’s Faye. As the movie shows, Faye was riddled with dementia before Isla showed up, and now she’s regained both her mind and vitality and is in no hurry to give both of those things up, no matter what she has to do.

The film is very well acted, with Crawford doing a good job depicting Bobby’s divided loyalties, between being a father to Isla and a leader to his town. What’s good for one isn’t necessarily good for the other. Fisher steals the show as Faye, who starts to become monstrous as she protects herself from ever slipping back into dementia, and it’s maybe the best role she’s had since Titanic.

Meanwhile, Alix West Lefler gives an excellent performance as Isla, to whom the powers are just something that have always been there. The movie depicts her as ultimately innocent, even if her gift could easily become a nightmare. Of all the adults, the most sympathetic is Aden Young (Crawford’s Rectify co-star), the town’s former doctor, who’s become a broken-down alcoholic, as no one needs him anymore. Of everyone, he’s the only one who keeps Isla’s needs first and foremost in his mind, with her being best friends with his son. He’s kind of the town rebel, with him even containing a battery-powered tv in his attic, which he shows to the amazed Isla at one point, who can’t even conceive of such a thing being possible. 

The King Tide really is an unexpected gem, and one can see why VVS, the Canadian distributor, has gone all-out, giving it a significant push, as it’s very entertaining and should connect with a pretty broad audience. It hits Canadian theatres today and comes out in the U.S. via Vertical later this year. Keep an eye out for it, and if it’s playing in your neck of the woods, give it a shot. 

the king tide review

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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.