'October Gale': Toronto Review

Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival
A domestic-siege thriller full of holes and dubious motivations

A storm traps a woman in her island home with a man being hunted by killers

Patricia Clarkson returns to her Cairo Time director Ruba Nadda in October Gale, a film that starts off as a quiet exploration of grief but soon becomes a trapped-in-your-home thriller. It's easy to understand the actress's willingness to work again with the director, whose previous film earned her some of the best notices in an already justly-praised career. But did she read the script first? Built on a premise that makes no sense and relying on one improbable decision after another, the fairly silly film will find few takers at the box office despite the drawing power of Clarkson and costars Scott Speedman and Tim Roth (whose appearance is brief).

Clarkson plays Helen, a doctor returning to the weekend cottage where her husband died a year ago. The only house on one of the many little islands in Ontario's Parry Sound, it would be a lonely place even if it weren't for countless reminders of their idyllic marriage, which was cut short when he ill-advisedly boated into a storm.

A storm seems to be brewing today, as well, and around the time it picks up, Helen gets a visitor: A bloodied man (Speedman) crawls in unannounced through her side door, requiring help she's luckily equipped to give. But after she removes a bullet from a man whose wound suggests trouble, how should she deal with Will?

However handsome he is, it seems unlikely a smart woman like Helen (Clarkson's performance suggests unfussy competence) would take Will at his word that the people pursuing him will kill her as well when they reach the island. (The claim is even more dubious — make that impossible to believe — once we learn the nature of the threat.) Nevertheless, the doctor who just happens to be a crack shot with a hunting rifle teams up with him to defend her home through the night.

Then, in the middle of preparing for an attack (and after taking a spill in the lake that has a puzzling suicidal shading), Helen kisses William by her fireplace. Nothing between the two characters has prepared us for this, and nothing to come will justify further moments of flirtation. In another context, an out-of-nowhere attraction between a hunk and a woman 16 years his senior might play as a subversion of Hollywood's tendency to toss young beauties at older male actors. But there's nothing subversive in October Gale's tone — except perhaps for its total abandonment of suspense-film logic once Tim Roth and his Canuck sidekick pull up for the third-act climax.

Production company: Blue Ice Pictures

Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Tim Roth, Scott Speedman, Callum Keith Rennie

Director-Screenwriter: Ruba Nadda

Producer: Daniel Iron

Executive producers: Kirk D'Amico, Emily Alden, Kevin Forester, Lance Samuels, Steven Silver, Neil Tabatznik, Christine Vachon

Director of photography: Jeremy Benning

Production designer: Gordon Barnes

Costume designer: Alexander Reda

Editor: Wiebke von Carolsfeld

Music: Mischa Chillak

Sales: Myriad Pictures


No rating, 90 minutes