Canadian Film Fest 2019 Review: “Nowhere” (2019) ★★★

It’s a well-known syndrome of small rural towns when they’re freaked out every time someone new appears. It’s almost like a fear that the status of a local celebrity will disappear due to an outsider who is too cool. Whether it was that fact alone that looked so attractive in “Nowhere” or the case of missing teenager, Thomas Michael’s film, co-written with his life-long friend and frequent collaborator Paolo Mancini takes a few important concepts and cleverly puts them together to turn the film into a suspenseful thriller that might give you some hints of its outcome, however, doesn’t become less interesting as time goes on.

Claire Porter (Kate Drummond) and her teenage daughter just moved into a small town called Mattawa. Claire just joined the Senior High School as a Vice Principal and is too excited to begin her first day at school. Her daughter, Sarah (Nell Verlaque), who happens to join the same school is welcomed with somewhat indifference by the same school, especially by the girls known as the golden girls of Mattawa, and soon to become her teammates in the school’s basketball team. However, the seemingly quiet town that lives an uneventful life is struck by the disappearance of Sarah, who did not come home after the team-bonding party organized by her newly made friends.

Right from the beginning, there is a strange feeling of concern in the air as soon as the film starts. The school is too perfect. Students are too good. Everyone aims higher standards, and that’s the most interesting thing about the whole story. When Sarah comes to the school, her basketball skills take her right to the heart of the team, to which she agrees to join after passing a quick test. Her considerate coach, Ruth Simmons (Rya Kihlstedt), is exceptionally caring about her team and was full of joy to have Sarah as a useful addition to the basketball team while she hopes to participate in the Nationals. Her daughter, Kat (Joelle Farrow), is the captain of the team and invites Sarah to the party. Sarah does not mind attending and while her mother is reluctant about it,  she allows her daughter to go out not even realizing that she is not going to make back home afterward.

“Nowhere” does not try to hide all the clues it provides to the audience regarding who is involved in Sarah’s disappearance but rather tackles another side of this story – their motive. Even though the motive itself may not bee too clear in the beginning, but a few scenes suggest why. Kate Drummond as Claire Porter takes over the most challenging part to ensure the viewer does not only lose its interest but hang on with her until she finds the conclusion, whether it’s a happy or sad one. Rya Kihlstedt as Ruth “Coach” Simmons is a true revelation from “Nowhere” that appears out of nowhere with such a strong performance.

Overall, Thomas Michael’s piece offers a truly dark and engaging journey that is worthwhile watching. In fact, with his first feature film, he does an outstanding job by delivering probably the most impressive indie thriller, trust me on that, you have no idea you needed to see. The film itself never goes around of its narrative, is very clear with its storyline and lets the story play out naturally as if it was something occurring outside on your street.

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