Four years after Lynne Stopkewich burst onto the scene, she returned with “Suspicious River” in which Molly Parker plays Leila, an attractive motel clerk.
One evening, upon the lascivious urgings of a lonely patron, she impetuously decides to broaden her horizons by extending her services to include sex, oral sex and other similar acts in exchange for a small fee.
Word spreads fast about her services and she is confronted by a sleazy charlatan named Gary who leads her to his room where he proceeds to beat and rape her.
Afterwards, Gary apologizes profusely and forcefully confides in her, lamenting his rage which he attributes to a his father. Leila becomes hopelessly attracted to him. She opts for late night sexual encounters with him while avoiding the worried interrogations of her anorexic husband.
Leila becomes popular among the other male guests of the motel, which fuels Gary’s jealousy and anger. When Gary gets angry, he hits things.Stopkewich juxtaposes Leila’s tale with the unsettling story of a young redhead girl. In her attempts to hide from an unhealthy domestic situation, the young girl repeatedly crosses paths and converses poignantly with Leila. This parallel eulogizes Leila’s tragic fate, shedding light on what led her to embrace a relationship that wavers between mindless swooning and relentless beatings.
It’s Parker’s acting that propels the film as she brilliantly conveys the silent distress of a woman enamored by a violence that promises to annihilate her.
Also deserving of mention are Stopkewitch’s captivating lighting techniques which fill her images with a dynamic and aptly feuding color scheme. Seething hues of fiery red and blue square-off against one another. These contrasting colors imprison Leila in their crippling grasp while threatening to crowd each other off the screen.
However, the film isn’t lacking in shortcomings either. It would have been interesting to have been given some further elucidation on the reasons behind Leila’s husband’s incipient eating disorder, or perhaps an explanation of why she felt that stuffing the soundtrack with country music would make her film better.
With each of Leila’s deplorable choices, the film plunges further into heartbreaking calamity and eventually you’re abruptly and regretfully made aware of how incomprehensibly evil Gary is.
Sadly, Leila’s one desperate cry for help goes unanswered as she’s left helpless to do anything but succumb to her ordeal with the terrified countenance of a deer caught in headlights.
The resulting experience isn’t especially pleasurable for the audience either. The viewer becomes overwhelmed by a debilitating sense of futility and imminent doom very much analogous to the feeling one gets standing on the edge of a crowded beach, screaming at the top of one’s lungs watching a pack of deaf third graders wade unwittingly into a school of man-o-wars.
This film very quickly becomes exceedingly painful to watch.Visiting artist Stopkewich will be in attendance at the George Eastman House on Friday March 28 at 8 p.m. to present and answer questions regarding her film”Suspicious River.”
Berg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.