Charged with sexual energy and buried truths, Grant Scicluna’s Downriver merges the classic slow revelation of a film noir with a rural Australian setting. The narrative focuses around James Levy (Reef Ireland), who is visited by the mother of Chris, a boy he was convicted of drowning in a river years ago. The body was never found, and in an effort to elucidate what actually happened on that day years ago, James defies his parole officer and moves back to the summer cabin where the crime took place. This is complicated by a restraining order placed on James by childhood friend Anthony (Tom Green), who was also present when Chris drowned and still lives in the same cabin community with his family.
At the cabin, James and Anthony play a cryptic kind of cat-and-mouse game as James begins investigating the crime and looking for Chris’ body. Meanwhile, Anthony is sexually involved with James’ young neighbor Damien (Charles Ground), and the secret relationship has an air of deviancy about it, perhaps hinting at some hidden nefarious past. As James connects seemingly disparate observations with his own knowledge of that fateful afternoon, the true nature of the crime is revealed to the audience piecewise and with wrenching tension.
This mystery is superbly acted by all involved, and Scicluna’s pacing hooks the audience immediately and keeps them on edge throughout. There are grisly revelations and a surprising amount of human drama as well, making this an easy film to recommend. Given that this is Scicluna’s feature debut, it is especially impressive that he already has the confidence to end his film with a touch of ambiguity. Scicluna is certainly a director to watch, and Downriver an absolute treat for crime-mystery lovers.
Sunday, June 5, 2:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased at the Inside Out website.