Castle In The Ground


Reviewed by: John-Anthony Disotto

Castle In The Ground
"The film struggles to create the emotional resonance needed to connect with vulnerable and troubled characters."

Joey Klein’s opioid addiction drama tells the story of Henry (Alex Wolff) as he sinks into a world of drugs and violence following the death of his mother. Set in Sudbury, Ontario, Henry turns to his mother’s allergy medication and befriends Ana (Imogen Poots) – his troublesome and noisy neighbour.

Castle In The Ground focuses on a small town struggling with an opioid epidemic. Henry’s fast-track through life showcases his enforced maturity as he cares for his sick mother. He is denied the opportunity to make the mistakes of a teenager as he constantly reiterates their deal – he goes to college when she gets healthy again. This oppression leads him to come to terms with grief by entangling himself in the dangerous world of Ana’s opioid addiction.

Copy picture

Their relationship builds upon Ana’s reliance on medication and Henry’s loss. She gives him apple pie for free yet requests $20 to buy a pill a few hours later – using the friendship as a chance to play on his guilt. The longer they spend time with each other, the more toxicity of the situation causes them to develop an increasingly negative partnership.

The film struggles to create the emotional resonance needed to connect with vulnerable and troubled characters achieved by the likes of Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy, where the effects of meth addiction on a family feel devastatingly close to home. Throughout Castle In The Ground the story shifts between Henry’s fall and an odd drug scheme that Ana finds herself entangled in. This shift between slow heartfelt scenes and faster-paced action is jarring, and mixed with the dark colours and close up angles, this creates uneasy and restless viewing.

Castle in the Ground manages to cast light on the destruction that opioids can cause – however, the lack of character depth hinders the overall message. There’s an argument that showcasing the effects of drugs as something bigger than the person the addiction consumes is the realistic approach to take – yet, the film lacks the tact to connect with a wider audience and instil emotion with further character development. Just as Castle In The Ground begins to build and grasp your attention it ultimately ends up feeling empty, like Henry and Ana as they find themselves falling deeper and deeper towards an irreparable situation.

Reviewed on: 26 May 2020
Share this with others on...
Castle In The Ground packshot
A former carer devastated by the loss of his mother finds relief in her painkillers and bonds with a local junkie as his former friends move away to attend college.

Director: Joey Klein

Writer: Joey Klein

Starring: Alex Wolff, Imogen Poots, Neve Campbell, Tom Cullen, Keir Gilchrist, Kiowa Gordon, Star Slade

Year: 2019

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: Canada


SXSW 2020

Search database: