The Winter Lake – Sheerin’s thriller lacks time to reach its full potential

2nd March 2021

The Winter Lake is available to stream and buy from 15th March.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you travel to Loughareema in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, you are bound to stumble upon the mysterious vanishing lake – a geological fascination that can appear full of water one day and arid the next. Ghostly tales, superstition and fear, have surrounded the lake for generations, yet its fluctuating level is due to the underground rivers that feed it. Its dark waters are sucked into a series of natural drainage systems before refilling its secrets below. It is, therefore, fitting that this is the location for Phil Sheerin’s, The Winter Lake, a compelling, engaging and taut thriller.

Tom (Anson Boon) and his mother, Elaine (Charlie Murphy), have escaped a mysterious and tragic past by running to an old rundown Irish farmhouse owned by Elaine’s grandfather. While the reason they ran has something to do with Tom, it’s a subject off-limits for them both as they settle into a reclusive life. However, it is not long before Elaine and Tom meet their neighbours, Ward (Michael McElhatton) and his daughter Holly (Emma Mackey). But while Holly takes Tom under her wing and Elaine becomes friendly with Ward, secrets bubble under the surface, longing to rise from the deep.

Sheerin wraps his movie in the bleakness of a cold and wet Irish winter as the mystery ebbs and flows with each meeting of Tom, Holly, Elaine and Ward. Here the opening three acts are exquisite in their tension and complexity. However, while the final act is haunting due to the discovery at the heart of The Winter Lake, it is also where Sheerin’s film suffers its most significant flaw as he opts to speed toward a conclusion. Here the film’s slow-building tension, fear and uncertainty culminate in a finale that feels far too quick and dirty, given the subjects at hand.


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