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Dark River


Stars: Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley, Sean Bean

Director: Clio Barnard

For those cinemagoers who actively enjoy misery at the movies, here it is, and by the bucketload. An appropriate analogy, since most of the scenario is set in the muck-strewn surroundings of a remote Yorkshire farm.

And boy, is there is trouble at t' farm...

Itinerant sheep shearer Alice (Wilson) is called back to the place when her father (Bean) dies, apparently leaving the place to her. It's not clear why this isn't exactly the case, but the matter sits in any event poorly with her scapegrace brother Joe (Stanley), who, with their surly father dying (slowly) has let the place go to rack and ruin.

He still lives in the 'main' building, a ramshackle, poorly-maintained affair, which Alice won't go near, preferring to shack up in an adjoining prefab. It soon emerges that she was subjected to continual sexual abuse by her father; now she plans to make a go of the place as it was once run by her late mother.

But her general unhappiness is compounded by competition from Joe. 'I've got succession rights,' he bellows, 'and I'm gonna claim for tenancy'. What he plans to do, if he succeeds, is sell the place to land developers.

Apart from the odd slip in vowel sounds, notably the much used F-word, the actors are well in character here, with Wilson even looking a dab hand at shearing a sheep. Alas, mud, muck and misery prevail over all, right down to the tragic ending.

David Quinlan

UK 2017. UK Distributor: Arrow Films. Colour (unspecified).
89 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 18 Feb 2018