Adolescent sisters Ruthie (Walker) and Lucille (Burchill) live by a threatening black lake; their mother lies at its bottom, and Aunt Sylvie (Lahti) flaunts death by rowing on it late at night. Sylvie rocks the boat in other ways too. Arriving out of the blue to care for her nieces, she has habits that challenge the small town's conventions and eventually come between the girls: she collects tins, sleeps on park benches, hoards newspapers, condones the girls' truancy, almost sets the house on fire while cooking. Gentle humour stems from such idiosyncrasies, but Sylvie is irresponsible, dangerously so. When Lucille's schoolgirl desire to be 'normal' forces her out of the house, we sense an ominous flipside to the kookie, childish adventures Sylvie dreams up to entertain Ruthie. Weather, period (the '50s) and place (Idaho) are so emphatically detailed they're oppressive; while Sylvie and the girls come to life with greater depth and wholeness than Forsyth's characters have hitherto enjoyed. Here the director's characteristic other-worldly charm is overshadowed by a dark intensity; with its backdrop of death, isolation and portent, the movie is sombre, very strange, but wonderful.
Cast and crew