The Midnight Swim
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
Starring Jennifer Lafleur, Aleksa Palladino, Lindsay Burdge
Review by Jordan
Following the drowning death of their mother, three estranged sisters return to their family home by Spirit Lake to settle her affairs and hopefully reconnect. Annie (Jennifer Lafleur) is the eldest and least aloof; she is looked up to by her sisters, who nonetheless see her single minded intents as selfishness and a contradiction. Isa (Aleksa Palladino) harnesses weirdness as a unique characteristic, yet her normality lies in her ability and desire to connect with others, and June (Lindsay Burdge) is an introvert who views the world through a camera lens, symbolic of her tendency to avoid human confrontation.
The relationship these sisters share is authentic and intense, with their differences serving to both divide and unite them in grief. Though they each deal with it differently, none can easily accept the loss they share, and returning to their youthful states while at home they take interest in the local legend of the seven sisters who drowned in the lake many years ago, with the seventh sister waiting beneath the surface to drag the next victim down who would swim at midnight. Creating a mood with candles under the blanket of moonlight, the girls, along with high school friend Josh (Ross Partridge), jokingly attempt to summon the seventh sister from the depths, kick-starting an unsettling series of events that may or may not be supernatural, but will further try the already strained sisterly bonds.
Exploring the lingering impacts of death on those left to mourn, as well as mental illness and the role of siblings might seem too much for a low budget affair utilising the point-of-view technique synonymous with bad horror movies, but The Midnight Swim enforces it’s credentials as a seriously impressive drama/thriller with it’s engaging structure and performances. First time director Sarah Adina Smith pushes the prospect of madness and mythology just far enough to maintain suspense, while never losing sight of the human elements important in making her film engaging and realistic. She is assisted invaluably by three lead actresses who could easily be sisters in real life.
Where creative originals such as this can sometimes fall apart is in introducing too many jarring ideas, producing a rift in cohesiveness. The questionable writing choice here is the ending, which is a tad too obvious and in a style too different to what has preceded it, although I can appreciate that it will work better for some than others. Perhaps I was enjoying the building mood so much I had imagined my own ideal ending, and set myself up for disappointment.
The Midnight Swim takes care to establish itself as a one of a kind; a thriller that studies neurosis and the supernatural in equal measure, teasing the audience to decide which to get lost in.