Saturday, September 25, 2021

Lakewood (AKA: The Desperate Hour): Movie Review

Frenetic and occasionally frustrating, but solidly entertaining.

Lakewood will have a lot of negative things written about it: gimmicky, frenetic, misguided, capitalistic, but I will also add: entertaining. It is a fast-moving movie – literally as Amy (Naomi Watts) runs the entire time, but also for the audience who will quickly feel caught up in the adrenaline rush of Amy’s drama.   2021

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

Screenplay by: Chris Sparling

Starring: Naomi Watts

Lakewood is the extreme opposite of its fellow fall film festival movie Mass which also deals with a school shooting. Mass is six years after the shooting and is a slow meditation on the feelings of grief and anger. Lakewood takes place in almost real-time as a school shooting is developing and is a very frenetic and chaotic thriller of a mother trying to get to the truth of what’s currently happening.

Amy (Naomi Watts) is going for a run on her day off. Her moody teenage son is staying in bed, insistent that he’s not going to school that day. She doesn’t have the energy to fight him. On her run, Amy has phone call after phone call after phone call of so many things that just seem unimportant since we all know what the plot is eventually leading to. She has a co-worker trying to find something at the office, parents who need their car picked up at an autobody shop, and a younger daughter who left a toy at an afterschool centre. But these are all seeds that are planted that provide Amy with both emotional connection and physical help later on.

The setting is almost entirely in the forest just outside of Amy’s nice suburb (and filmed in North Bay, Ontario). I like the fact that they found a setting for a film about a school shooting and kept the action completely away from the school. Although a lot of people have an issue with the fact that the “action” is on Amy’s phone. But we also have a thriller that takes place in the woods where the woods are not a place of fear – at the beginning they are a place of calm and serenity with the beautiful fall colours, later on they become an obstacle on her route to the school once she has heard the news that there’s an active shooter and her son is there after all. But throughout this ‘cell phone thriller’, the film makes great use of the forest and the cinematography and vantage points it provides.

The script is the weak aspect. I yelled at the screen a few times – mostly due to some unrealistic dialogue and wanting Amy to stop and take a breath. But director Phillip Noyce does a good job of turning Amy’s emotional state into a compelling thriller. Using the backdrop of the forest and the need to get to the school, Lakewood had me emotionally invested and on the edge of my seat. The frenetic style can be a bit much but it aids in the urgency and the really quick pace of the movie. This is a fast and engaging thriller built off of very little – just Naomi Watts and her cell phone.