The Midnight Swim, 2014.
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
Starring Lindsay Burdge, Jennifer Lafleur, Aleksa Palladino, Ross Partridge, Beth Grant
Spirit Lake is unusually deep. No diver has ever managed to find the bottom, though many have tried. When Dr. Amelia Brooks disappears during a deep-water dive, her three daughters travel home to settle her affairs. But when the half-sisters jokingly summon a local ghost, their relationship begins to unravel and they find themselves drawn deeper into the mysteries of the lake.
The surreal mystery film The Midnight Swim was first released back in 2014. Sarah Adina Smith’s debut feature receives a welcome re-release this month, offering more audiences a chance to dive into the psychodrama of the lake land waters.
The film offers a wholly believable account of three sisters coming back to their home town in the great lakes after their mother has gone missing. Annie (Jennifer Lafleur), Isa (Aleksa Palladino) and June (Lindsay Burdge) are ostensibly there to organise their mother’s affairs in the event that she is declared deceased. Dr. Amelia Brooks (Beth Grant) was an ecologist and biologist and had been conducting research into the lake for many years. Whether she chose to dive into the lake never to return is what the sisters hope to discover.
The sisters all have a realistic relationship and the interaction between the three is the film’s strongest element. They soon find an old local crush of Annie’s, Josh (Ross Partridge), who quickly cosies up to Isa. The four of them then get caught up in a local legend of the ghost of the lake. When June becomes increasingly disturbed by film footage on her camera that she has no recall of taking, the interactions between everyone becomes more and more tense.
There is a striking scene within the film that could be key to unraveling Adina Smith’s intentions with the story. When the sisters venture into their mother’s laboratory and uncover a map of the lake’s waters punctuated with emotional and psychological terminology, the effect on them and the audience is stark.
The film is delivering a mystery that is not easy to decipher; the physicality of the lake might well be symbolic for the subconscious. In any case, as the film continues, the emotionally fragile June feels the pressure of the situation more and more. As the film is largely seen through her camera’s POV, the audience shares in the enigma that she sees everywhere.
The result is a beguiling and beautiful film examining the nature of memory, personality and psychology. The three leads are all excellent and establish a human centre at the forefront of a weird and entangled mystery tale. Described by its creator Adina Smith as ‘an existential horror film’, The Midnight Swim is a magical and otherworldly experience.
The Midnight Swim collector’s Blu-Ray edition is released this month. Features include commentary, essays and shorts from the film’s director Sarah Adina Smith. The film will also be available on VOD platforms from January 25th
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.