Greetings again from the darkness. The initial assumption is that this is a story of a lone wolf stalking a family. Early on, it shifts into the story of Joseph Mersault, a throwback trapper teaching his 13 year old daughter how to survive off the land. Yet, what writer-director Shawn Linden ultimately delivers is the story of Joseph’s wife, Anne, who combats not only the wolf, but something even worse.
Joseph (Devon Sawa) is one grumpy dude. He’s no fan of society or people, and the only pleasures he seems to find in life are living in an isolated cabin and teaching his daughter Renee (Summer H Howell) how to do the same. They are joined in this quiet and very hard life by wife and mother, Anne (Camille Sullivan). Anne dutifully carries out her chores, but dreams of a more normal life for herself and her daughter. The family barters animal skins for food and supplies and live mostly off the grid – and we later learn there are complications to even something as simple as their cabin.
The forests of Manitoba provide what the family needs, but just barely. Winter is approaching and now a wolf is stealing from their traps, leaving them short of food. This wolf has previously stalked the family, and Joseph aims to hunt him down. The camera work in the forest is terrific – giving us the visual beauty, as well as the constant danger. And in this story, danger and traps take on many forms, including the secrets folks keep from each other.
The wolf only makes a couple of appearances, yet the threat is always present. There is a terrific sequence that cuts between Joseph, Anne, and Renee, as each are in different areas of the forest at the same time. Each of the situations is tension-filled and our minds are bouncing around as much as the characters. Other characters enter the story, including a couple of Rangers who are unprepared for what they are about to face, and another character (Nick Stahl) who shifts the entire dynamic of the film.
Director Linden gives us a survival thriller, one that probably best compares to LEAVE NO TRACE. This one is also a psychological study of just what a person is capable of when pushed to the limit. Anne’s story is about her ability to navigate this world while raising a daughter. The final sequence leads to extreme violence, and acts as her emotional release every bit as much as rage and revenge.
VOD beginning December 18, 2020