Set in 1980s Newfoundland, Black Conflux has an air of inevitability, and a foreboding sense of dread. It seems certain that Jackie (Ella Ballentine) is going to cross paths with Dennis (Ryan McDonald). It also seems certain that if she does, it will not go well. You see, Dennis has a beer truck full of imaginary women who worship him, but he has nothing but contempt for the real women he meets. Jackie is a high schooler who has somehow caught Dennis’ attention. The more time we spend with Dennis, the more we come to think that the women in the beer truck might not be imaginary; they might be his victims’ ghosts, and Jackie might be next.

Writer-director Nicole Dorsey’s talent and confidence are on full display in her first feature-length film. She has written two great characters in Jackie and Dennis, through whom Dorsey generates a great deal of tension. Adding to the tension are the atmospheric shots of Newfoundland’s wild beauty, which reminded me there are plenty of places on the rock to hide a body or two or ten.

Dorsey is aided by two great performances from Ballentine and McDonald, who make their characters feel real. Jackie is the more sympathetic one (mainly because she is not acting like a serial killer) but despite Dennis’ issues (or maybe because of them) I found myself fascinated by both characters.

It’s not that Black Conflux keeps the audience guessing, because a confrontation between Jackie and Dennis seems inevitable (after all, it’s in the title!). What makes Black Conflux so enjoyable is that it keeps the audience engaged, invested and interested in the journey to the climax. It’s a great debut feature for Dorsey and a great start to my 2019 Toronto International Film Festival viewing.

Screens:
Friday, September 6, Scotiabank, 6:15 PM
Sunday, September 8, Scotiabank, 5:45 PM
Saturday, September 14, Scotiabank, 11:30 AM

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