TIFF 2021: “Lakewood”

© Courtesy of TIFF

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gun violence and school shooting are like an epidemic in North America. Maybe rarely in Canada, but too often in the United States. It’s awful each time hearing how many children’s lives were lost because someone decided to take a rifle and began killing kids. Public schools, sadly, are most often targets of those who can’t find another way to deal with their anger.

Amy Carr (Naomi Watts) takes a day off to spend with her two children, watch movies, be silly and just relax. Sounds like a great plan. Her daughter Emily goes to school, while Noah decides to stay home. The woman insists on her son to do what is right. As she goes for a run, deep in the woods, she is jogging, talking on the phone, dealing with her daily routine as usual. When she switches her phone to do not disturb mode, she does not realize that soon she will be receiving an emergency alert when Noah’s school goes in lockdown due to an active shooter, with her son being considered the primary suspect.

“Lakewood” is captured from the perspective of a mother who does not know the fate of her son, as she races against time, literally, running the whole movie from the woods, to catch her share-rider. The film is so nerve-rattling, be prepared to bite your nails throughout. As Amy runs, she sees a bunch of police cars passing her in a rush. She just disregards it. But what she does not know, soon she will be at the epicentre of events, close enough to go through the entire nightmare. She will involve her colleague from Marion County Division of Taxation, the manager from the auto repair shop, even a 911 dispatcher, all through her phone, as all bad thoughts cross her mind, including, how to make Noah stop taking more lives.

Written by Chris Sparling and directed by Phillip Noyce, the film paints an excellent image of horror going through each parent’s mind. It’s devastating, scary and unthinkable to find yourself in such a difficult situation. No child should ever worry about being shot while going to school. No parent wants that either. But how to stop gun violence? What are those avenues that should be explored to prevent this from happening again? While Amy is in the forest in search of a path, she refuses to give up as her maternal instincts kick in, doing everything possible but losing her mind.

As for Naomi Watts’ performance, there should be no surprises, as she captures with her every single muscle on her face, anger frustration, devotion, fear and determination to run as fast as she can because that’s what any parent would do if any of us would be in her situation.

“Lakewood” is a unique one-woman thriller which those who like films with more than one actor in it may dislike. But trust me, the time will pass so quickly, you won’t even realize it. The film is a fast-paced emotional suspenseful thriller you will be hardly sitting after finding yourself on the edge of your seat. Some may argue the plot is predictable and there is truth to that. But let’s ask ourselves, after watching it, what other outcome would you expect to see? The film provides the best possible solution, showing how the community comes together to navigate the impossible situation which, without casualties, will never end.

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