Two girls dangling on the brink of adulthood enjoy a summertime of fleeting childhood adventures, in the latest by Slovakian-Canadian director Ingrid Veninger.
Set in the Ontario cottage country, Ingrid Veninger's assured, affecting sixth feature follows two preteens dealing with their volatile desires and the chaotic, messy emotional lives of their parents and older siblings.
Bea (Charlotte Salisbury) is newly arrived from Toronto, and painfully lonely. Her parents are fighting over what to do about the family-owned diner. Kate (Lucinda Armstrong Hall) has lived in the area all her life, along with her absent, constantly hungover mother, her troubled older brother, Romeo, and her angry older sister, a single mom herself. Drawn together by curiosity, desire, and their fascination with and fear of the looming world of adolescence, the pair forges a deep bond — despite objections from those around them about how short-lived their friendship will be.
Over the last decade or so, Ingrid Veninger has established herself as an icon in English Canada's independent-film landscape. Porcupine Lake is her most polished and skilful production to date but, happily, she has not abandoned the honesty of her previous work. Recalling her breakthrough films, Only and MODRA, Porcupine Lake shares elements with Andrew Cividino's celebrated Sleeping Giant, most importantly its directness and sensitivity. Both filmmakers are acutely aware that betrayal, neglect, and separation are, for preteens, tragedies as well. This awareness is especially evident in the heart-rending turns by the two young stars, Salisbury and Armstrong Hall, who capture every devastating fluctuation in their characters' emotional lives.