Spirit Lake is bottomless, so far as the locals in writer-director Sarah Adina Smith’s The Midnight Swim can tell. A small town straddles its enigmatic shores, though nobody has ever seen the bottom — except, perhaps, those who have drowned in its dark waters.
Recently joining this company is one Amelia Brooks (Beth Grant), whose three semi-estranged daughters (Lindsay Burdge, Jennifer Lafleur, and Aleksa Palladino) must now converge on the family home in the wake of their mother’s watery demise.
Folklore abounds in The Midnight Swim, whether it be a conception of reincarnation involving the “River of Forgetting” espoused by the deceased spiritualist or the mythical Seventh Sister, who must be summoned via incantation. Less is often more when it comes to depicting such rituals onscreen, and Smith is highly attuned to the simple power of, say, characters cryptically chanting under their breath.
Which isn’t faint praise — in her debut feature, Smith is careful to toe the line between skepticism and belief, never allowing us to fully dismiss or embrace the mystic elements. Imposing narrative conclusions and definitive answers on all this presents problems, as tends to be the case in the kind of movie where bodies of water hold talismanic significance, but not enough to discount the strange allure of being submerged in these troubled siblings’ collective subconscious.
The Midnight Swim
Directed by Sarah Adina Smith
Candy Factory Films
Opens June 26, Cinema Village