by Justin Stewart Film

Porcupine Lake | Ingrid Veninger

September 22, 2017

Slovakia-born Canadian director Ingrid Veninger’s Porcupine Lake is a sensitive, sun-dappled summer idyll (with dark undercurrents) on themes of coming of age, preteen-love-fumblings, and the inevitable realization of the adult world’s fallibility. Newcomer Charlotte Salisbury (palpably raw and naturalistic) plays Bea, up from Toronto in the cottage country of Port Severn with her mother (Delphine Roussel) to help decide the fate of the family-owned gas farm and diner. Dad (Christopher Bolton) is already there, and his furtive swigs from a spiked milkshake (and then just the flask) reveal some cracks in his energized, fatherly facade. Bea’s introspective loneliness is rent by the attention of the much brasher Kate (Lucinda Armstrong Hall), who quizzes Bea on her preferences (“mountains or ocean,” “hot chocolate or coffee”) and eventually teachers her how to French kiss, though the hesitant, birdlike result is far from Blue Is the Warmest Color.

Darkness intrudes in the form of Kate’s older brother, fond of lynching dogs and calling girls “cockteases,” a charge Kate parrots. The vital gift Veninger possesses is an ability to access universal truths of growing-up through weird ultra-specifics. A few rote characterizations contribute to a sense of slightness in Porcupine Lake, but the film’s relaxed tone rhymes with its pleasant ambiance of lake-breeze idleness—and any veteran of adolescence knows that the comments or glances that may appear minor to the outsider are actually of the utmost consequence.

Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2017 | Dispatch 3.