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Dark River

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A highly charged but oddly abbreviated drama in which Ruth Wilson and newcomer Mark Stanley share top billing with the spectacular Yorkshire landscape.

You wait ages for a hard-hitting drama set in the Yorkshire Dales, then two come along almost at once. Unlike in last year’s ‘God’s Own Country’, love is in short supply in a homecoming fable that writer-director Clio Barnard juices for every drop of quiet anguish. Sensitively depicting the psychic scars of domestic abuse, only a frustratingly abrupt final act leaves it falling short of Barnard’s remarkable previous work.

We meet farmhand Alice (Ruth Wilson) proficiently shearing sheep, but soon she’s heading back to her childhood farm after the death of her dad. Awaiting her is long-estranged brother Joe (Mark Stanley), who’s only half running the place and self-medicating with booze. Alice has a legitimate claim to this rusting collection of barns, but he’s not giving them up without a fight.

The pair sparks ferociously off each other, as the root cause of their troubles – an abusive dad (Sean Bean) – is glimpsed in flashbacks. The farmhouse is haunted with bad memories but for Alice, the allure of home is strong.

It’s kitchen-sink meets sheep-dipper: a nightmare nestled inside a rural idyll. Full of gruff exchanges and bursts of rage, Barnard’s script coils like a fuse towards a bundle of TNT that never quite detonates. It's essentially an intimate two-hander: Wilson and Stanley bring such vulnerability and sympathy to their characters, you’re left wanting more. It’s heartbreaking stuff and Barnard strips it back to its rawest emotions. Like the skeletons buried in this story, there’s not an ounce of fat on its bones.

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 23 February 2018
  • Duration:90 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Clio Barnard
  • Screenwriter:Clio Barnard
  • Cast:
    • Ruth Wilson
    • Sean Bean
    • Mark Stanley
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