Set in an isolated northern city, Wintertide follows Beth (Niamh Carolan), a volunteer watch person who spends the endless night searching for victims of a severe zombie infestation. Although she has been asked to take medications, she instead uses an alternative dream dimension to keep the illness at bay. However, as the body count continues to grow, Beth’s inner demons begin to catch up with her, driving a wedge between her and her friends.
Written and directed by John Barnard, Wintertide is a dark, twisty ride into the damage of isolation and the connections that drive us together. Drenched in shadows, Barnard’s world is cold and unforgiving. Lost within its eternal darkness, Beth’s journey becomes one of survival as she is left adrift in the endless night. Although she may be the film’s protagonist, Carolan plays her character with a certain emptiness. We understand that, while her volunteer position requires her to save others, she herself remains lonely and isolated. In many ways, her soul is as frozen as the winter that plagues them.
Barnard uses its claustrophobic nightfall to serve as an excellent metaphor for the global pandemic. An unknown virus affecting people seemingly at random. The pressure of separation and empty roads that have an eerie feel about them. (In fact, the film even presents the perils of neglecting government-mandated medications.)
However, Barnard uses this as an opportunity to grapple with the concept of sacrificial isolation. Although Beth seeks comfort in the arms of others, she finds that even the slightest contact with them becomes another opportunity to spread the madness. To him, reaching out recklessly becomes a form of selfishness while keeping a distance becomes a sign of humility. In this way, Wintertide reminds the viewer of the power of giving up our rights, especially if it helps others.
Wintertide is available at the Canadian Film Festival ’23. For more information, click here.