The Island Between Tides


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Island Between Tides
"Supporting its central idea with additional themes around identity, perception and mental illness, The Island Between Tides weaves a beguiling tale."

Stories of secret places where time runs out of sync with our own have an ancient pedigree. They can be found in Celtic myths, in Middle Eastern ones and in Japan, and they’re the earliest examples of time travel stories, often used to compare the present with the past. They also have a more personal aspect, frequently dealing with lost romance or the pain of separation from family. It was this theme that inspired Peter Pan author JM Barrie to write his play Mary Rose in 1920, and it is on this play that Austin Andrews and Austin Holmes’ film is (loosely) based. A century apart they are, appropriately, linked by references to Norman O’Neill’s original music in Keith Power’s score, which provides an additional sense of temporal dislocation for those familiar with it.

The power of Barrie’s work derives in part from his own sense of loss, as it was written shortly after the death of a young man to whom he had been a surrogate parent, and it is probably no coincidence that two of its central characters are around that same age. There’s a similar depth of experience present in the film, as Donal Logue, who plays the heroine’s father, has himself gone through the awful experience of having a daughter go missing, though thankfully without a tragic ending. Logue is one of those actors whose work is quite variable in quality, strongly influenced by director and co-stars, but here he shines, and he provides an anchor point as the only actor present through all the different stages of the film.

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Logue will be known to many viewers from his work as Detective Harvey Bullock in Gotham. The fact that he is called Bruce here, and at one point moves into an old people’s home called Wayne Place, feels like a rather pointed nod to this, perhaps a necessary acknowledgement in light of the fact that the film also stars that series’ Bruce Wayne, David Mazouz – but aside from the latter wearing black all the time and skulking in dark corners, that’s as far as it goes. Both actors have a lot more in them. At the centre of events, however, is Paloma Kwiatkowski as Lily, a young woman whose life is thrown off course by two visits to a small island in British Columbia: once in 1982 and then again in 1998.

The aforementioned music is the lure, and haunts the film. Lily follows it as a child (when played by Remy Mathaller) and plays it obsessively after her return. She only remembers being gone for a few minutes, but from the perspective of everyone else, it was days. “You’re always drifting between our world and someplace else,” says her older sister Zinnia (Camille Sullivan), who feels responsible and neglected and resentful. When Lily returns to the island years later, trying to make sense of it all, she has an odd encounter, stays for longer, and finds her whole life turned upside down.

Supporting its central idea with additional themes around identity, perception and mental illness, The Island Between Tides weaves a beguiling tale. Though it sometimes feels a little overstuffed, Kwiatowski keeps it believable, Lily’s vulnerability making her easy to root for and never rendering her passive. Mazouz doesn’t quite look rough enough for his role, but has an urgent physicality that makes it work. With sanity in question, the ghostly elements have a more than usually obvious potential to do harm, and are well balanced with real world anguish and scares. When Lily walks alone down a dark road at night and a truck briefly slows, it’s hard not to think of all the other girls and young women who have gone missing in that part of the world over the same period, never to return.

Screened as part of Fantaspoa 2024, the film is well polished and has a confident and steady pace which is relatively rare in genre fare, suggesting that it could do well with mainstream audiences. One hopes it gets the chance.

Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2024
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A young woman follows a mysterious melody onto a remote tidal island. When she crosses back over at the next low tide, she emerges into a world where 25 years have passed.

Director: Austin Andrews, Andrew Holmes

Writer: Austin Andrews, JM Barrie, Andrew Holmes

Starring: Paloma Kwiatkowski, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Camille Sullivan, Adam Beach, Matthew MacCaull, Megan Charpentier

Year: 2024

Runtime: 99 minutes

Country: Canada


Fantaspoa 2024

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