Dark River

The row over sheep got rather heated
5/10 - Ruth Wilson puts in a solid performance but the film doesn't make the most of its potential
Release Date: 
Friday, February 23, 2018
Written by: 

Ruth Wilson teams up with indie writer/director Clio Barnard for a drama about a brother-sister feud.


Ruth Wilson is best known for her TV roles in Luther and The Affair, and she certainly changes up her image with Dark River, in which she plays a farmer's daughter who knows how to handle a pair of sheep shears.

She plays Alice, who returns home after 15 years following the death of her father (Sean Bean) to claim the tenancy to the family farm in North Yorkshire, that she believes is rightfully hers.

That doesn't go down very well with her brother Joe (Mark Stanley), who has been living and working there, letting it fall into disrepair, and believes he deserves to have it.

Tensions between the estranged siblings are immediately evident, with Joe resenting Alice for leaving while he has been driving himself towards a breakdown trying to look after the farm and their ill father.

He doesn't appreciate her coming in, trying to make changes to how things are done and trying to take control of the farm from him. Matters continue to escalate - with devastating consequences.

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Wilson puts in an impressive, subtle performance as Alice, who has a lot of emotional issues to deal with.

Alice is feisty and determined and puts up a good fight against her brother, but she is also vulnerable back home as she is haunted by the abuse she suffered there, which is detailed in flashbacks starring Esme Creed-Miles and Aiden McCullough as the young Alice and Joe, respectively.

Wilson steals the show away from Stanley, whose performance consists of a lot of shouting and physically lashing out, as Joe doesn't know how to express his rage.

Unlike Wilson's accent, Stanley's Yorkshire twang makes it quite difficult to understand what he's saying.

Bean is barely in the film, mostly appearing in the flashbacks, but his presence is felt throughout as it is edited in a way to make it seem like he is haunting Wilson's Alice in the present day.

Due to their estrangement, most of the issues between Alice and Joe go unsaid - neither are willing to talk through their problems. This means that most of the time viewers have to draw their own conclusions about what happened between them.

This ambiguity continues throughout, even at the explosive ending, which is edited in a way that makes it hard to know what actually happened – leaving a fair amount of dissatisfaction as the audience are left struggling to fit the puzzle pieces together.

The film starts off well and has a lot of potential, but it doesn't quite come together and is let down by its disappointing conclusion.

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