Ingrid Veninger has been kicking around Canadian media since her days as a child actor. Her first feature as director, Only (2008), played to positive indie reviews and empty seats.1 That film concerns a pair of late tweens, a boy and a girl, wandering around a small town in winter and developing an unclearly-defined attraction. Her 2017 production, Porcupine Lake, features a pair of late tween girls wandering around a small town in summer and developing an unclearly-defined attraction. Is this platonic? Sexual? Manipulative?
Naive, sheltered Bea (Charlotte Salisbury) and her mother, a teacher (Delphine Roussel), join her father (Christopher Bolton) at the local diner he's inherited near Port Severn, Ontario. Bea falls for sort-of-wordly Kate (Lucinda Armstrong Hall), a local from a dysfunctional family. As in Only, they wander around and talk a lot, but there's also more mischief, peer pressure, and same-sex kissing. Their families become concerned, especially Bea's uptight mother, whose relationship with her husband has grown rocky. Then the film forces an external crisis upon the girls. We're expecting Kate's unbalanced older brother (Harrison Tanner) to play some part, but the choice the script makes seems bizarre and arbitrary. Maybe that's the point: we come of age against the backdrop of unpredictable events. I couldn't help feel that the turn short-changes the conflicts inherent in the girls' situation and their contrasting personalities. Nevertheless, our principals persevere, and try to take some control over their lives, even if that requires desperate measures.
The movie has been well-filmed, and features a solid cast. I liked Lake Porcupine, but I couldn't help feel that, like Bea and Kate, the story hasn't entirely figured out what it wants to be.
1. Except in the world of Porcupine Lake, where Only plays onscreen at the nearest theatre.