Reviewed by: Jane Fae

"It drags and is held together only by the fact that there is a super-irritating electronic score playing incessantly in the background."

River is billed as a “psychological sci-fi thriller, that follows River Allen, a 20-something woman who searches for her fragmented identity”. Well, it’s definitely fragmented. Also, confused. Confusing. Pointless.

Half an hour in we have learnt that River (Mary Cameron Rogers) is grieving the death of her mother, Lois (Becki Hayes). Following her mother's death – again, according to the blurb – she has “spiraled emotionally out of control”. At any rate, she’s definitely not making much sense, either to best friend, Amanda (Alexandra Rose) or ex-boyfriend Jamie (Rob Marshall), with whom she is…what? Flirting? Being friends? It’s not all that clear.

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Then she disappears for more than a week – but River has no idea where she’s been, what she’s been doing, or even that she’s been away for more than a day.

Flashbacks. Flashforwards. Or maybe just flashes of insight, or revelation, play out against a picture-perfect home life. Chintzy.

About half way through, matters take a turn for the darker with an odd and completely out of character remark from Amand and a less than sympathetic session with local store owner and roving psychotherapist/psychoanalyst/or maybe just psycho, Dr Glenn (Courtney Gains).

“Nothing makes any sense”, River complains. She’s not wrong. Official reports say her mother killed herself. River refuses to believe. Why are owls shedding feathers over River’s car? Still, there’s a cryptic letter from mum, there to be read/opened in the event of her death. So perhaps that holds the key? Some hope!

On the plus side, those taking part do well, as in, the on-screen action is well-acted, the lines well-delivered and with some degree of emotion (or in River’s case, bewilderment). But there is no plot. No real hint at what is to come. It drags and is held together only by the fact that there is a super-irritating electronic score playing incessantly in the background.

Accompaniment? Not really. Not in the sense that a musician took a look at the script and decided to play along. Rather, it feels like they asked writer/director Emily Skye what she needed and she replied “something ominous”. So, we got ominous, sawing back and forth between two notes, chords, whatever, for much of the film. Ow! Not just tedious but after a very short while intensely irritating.

“None of this makes sense,” adds Jamie a little bit later. "Nor me!" adds River, after reading a letter from her mum that likely does include an explainer to what is going on. For some reason, all the lights are flashing. And mum is back. “Is this real?”, asks River. Well, if she can’t tell…

As for the ending…part of the problem is that the lack of real plot development means you could graft almost anything on there and it would make as much sense – or nonsense – as the ending we got. But…no!

It is rare that I have such difficulty with a film. On the whole, I assume that if I do not like a film, there will be an audience for it somewhere. There must be, as this film won a small clutch of awards on the festival circuit. Still, I cannot imagine who it is for. There’s not much drama. Not much sci-fi. And a doomed relationship that feels like it had its origins in 1944 black-and-white Gaslight. Someone somewhere must enjoy this film. But not me!

Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2021
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Following her mother’s death, River Allen finds herself spiralling out of control, when her friend steps in to help, River discovers she has secrets of her own.

Director: Emily Skye

Writer: Emily Skye

Starring: Mary Cameron Rogers, Alexandra Rose, Rob Marshall, Courtney Gains, Becki Hayes

Year: 2021

Runtime: 93 minutes


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