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TIFF 2021 Review: Lakewood – “A predictable script which not even Noyce and Watts can overcome”

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While out on a morning run Amy Carr (Naomi Watts) learns that there has been a high school shooting and that her teenage son is a possible suspect.

A dark cloud hangs over the Carr family as it approaches the one-year anniversary of the death of the patriarch in a car accident.   Amy Carr (Naomi Watts) decides to take a day off from work and to go for a morning run while her melancholy son, Noah  (Colton Cobbo), lies in bed unwilling to go to school.  The outdoor exercise that leads deep into a forest is far from relaxing as a number of smartphone conversations occur. Along the way, a number of police cars go speeding by which are followed by a police alert notice alerts Carr that something is wrong.  She discovers that there has been a shooting at the local high school and that Noah might be the culprit.

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When Naomi Watts and filmmaker Phillip Noyce appear in the same sentence it is hard not to take notice as the Australian stalwarts are always fascinating to watch and to have them working together is a dream come true.  Noyce can easily shift from Hollywood blockbusters to indie productions and has crafted thrillers before such as The Quiet American.  Watts has long established that she has the ability to carry a movie.  These two elements elevate the production value of Lakewood as most of the narrative occurs with Watts alone in the forest running and having desperate conversations over a smartphone while the action unfolds in real-time.  However, what is not on an equal footing is the predictable script which not even Noyce and Watts can overcome.

Extreme facial close-ups emphasize the emotional distress of Amy while flashbacks provide exposition and demonstrate her mental state at certain moments.  The most effective and efficient creative choices that propel the narrative forward are the speeding police cars and the police alert notice.  Unfortunately, everything else drags on with an honest observation being that Amy would be better focused on getting to the school rather than trying to also multitask with her phone conversations. Granted in current times this is not an entire stretch as mobile devices have become an extra appendage for many users but it leads to unsurprising results.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit tiff.net.    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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