Shadowtown: Wrestling with Shadows

In almost every way, this?Shadowtown?is a mood.?

Directed by Jon Einarsson Gustafsson and Karolina Lewicka, Shadowtown follows Maya (Brittany Bristow), a young woman who is called to her family?s Icelandic home after her grandmother passes away. However, after messages from a mysterious source make Maya question the reasons for her grandmother?s death, she soon discovers that the shadows of her family may be coming for her as well.

Setting the tone early with its aesthetic choices, there?s a good reason to take a trip to Shadowtown. Dark and foreboding, the film is a tight little thriller that draws in the viewer with its visual sensibilities and sense of intrigue. Although this part of the world is often known for its stunning scenery and charm, the directors keep the film focused tightly on its rural community, bathing the screen with heavy blues and splintered lighting. In doing so, Gustafsson and Lewicka give their Icelandic setting an ominous glow that feels instantly unsettling. 

What?s more, this disquieting atmosphere is augmented by the film?s use of dialogue. Despite its unravelling mystery, the film wants the viewer to experience its intrigue, as opposed to have it explained to them. Dialogue is limited, leaving a far greater emphasis on the performers? ability to communicate through facial expressions and glances. While this can be difficult to pull off, when done well, it can be incredible to see. Thankfully, Shadowtown has a solid enough cast to carry this through. For example, despite his presence in most of the film, veteran John Rhys-Davies has barely a single scene?s worth of dialogue. Nevertheless, the viewer understands immediately the potential threat in his appearances due to his incredible ability to communicate through a single glare.

However, while Rhys-Davies is always a treat, it?s also worth noting that Brittany Bristow does a wonderful job as the film?s lead. Bristow fuels Maya with a confidence that slowly erodes as her experiences become more jarring. Frankly, as her work in The Marijuana Conspiracy reveals, Bristow continues to show her talent and one hopes that she will continue to be recognized as one of Canada?s rising stars.

In a lot of ways, Shadowtown is ultimately a film about the anxiety of coming home. As Maya returns to her grandmother?s home, she soon begins to experience the psychological ghosts that come from stepping into one?s own family history. In essence, she feels an instant connection with the house yet also strangely unwelcome. Without giving any particular spoilers, the mystery surrounding her grandmother?s death forces her to reconcile her family?s past with her present. This can be difficult for anyone to do but Maya, in particular, struggles to let go of her family?s traumas. Even so, as she begins to accept the secrets of her past, Maya is able to find the courage to build a new future for her family in the present.

But first, Maya must struggle with the shadows in order to find some light.

Shadowtown is available on VOD on Tuesday, February 21, 2023.

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