Saturday, 19 October 2019

Running Water

Running Water is the latest film from Winnipeg filmmaker Bevan Klassen, whose previous credits include the excellent documentary, Conversations After Church, and the feature film, Of Games and Escapes. For Running Water, Klassen teams up with co-director and co-writer Frank Zappia, who also plays a role in the film. Playing the lead role (Andy) is Lyle Morris, who also starred in Of Games and Escapes

Andy is a lonely, insecure and socially awkward quality-control engineer who has difficulty forming relationships with women, which is something he is desperate to do. When his friends, Mass (Zappia) and Julie (Jill Zappia), introduce him to Sara (Naomi Cronk), Andy is immediately attracted to the young woman but fumbles every attempt at conversation. 

Sara, an artist who is having her own struggles with life, is spending time at Julie and Mass’s cottage in the woods, where Andy regularly cuts the grass. When Andy arrives for his weekly task, he sees Sara’s car in the drive and wisely decides not to bother her. But while he’s there, something happens in the house that will change his life forever. Though the film has barely started at this point, it would be a spoiler to say any more. I will just mention the film’s other major character, Norbert, a mysterious figure played by Darryl Nepinak.

Running Water is a thought-provoking fantasy drama that encourages viewers to reflect on their lives as they watch the film’s protagonists reflect on their own. This is aided by the film’s slow deliberate pace that allows time for viewers to enjoy the beauty of the natural setting, which plays a key role in the film’s story (Klassen’s cinematography is terrific). Running Water was shot in 3D, which creates an immersive experience, making viewers feel like participants in the mysterious drama and highlighting, especially, all the beautiful foliage (in Manitoba, no less).

Much of the dialogue was improvised by the actors on the set, which makes it more difficult to comment on the writing. As one might expect, the improvised dialogue allows the performances and characters to feel more natural, but occasionally it results in awkward pauses and phrases. Of course, this could also be the result of an effort to portray the awkwardness of the characters (especially on Morris’s part). Perhaps more critical is the general lack of strong emotions that would have helped viewers connect more empathically with the characters. Nevertheless, the characters and their struggles are believable and engaging.

The score of Running Water is well done, and a definite asset to the film, though it sometimes feels a little light for what is essentially a story shrouded in mystery. It is that mystery which makes Running Water an always-fascinating film to watch. If you have a chance to see it, it is definitely worth a look (and a discussion afterwards). In Winnipeg, It will be playing at the Cinematheque on November 16, 17, 29 and 30. Here's the link for that: