The King Tide: Many Thanks to Isla

Many thanks to Isla.

Directed by Christian Sparkes, The King Tide tells the story of Bobby (Clayne Crawford), the mayor of a small island village. When he and his wife discover a child with mysterious abilities, they decide to take her into their home as their own. However, as those abilities begin to waver, the community begins to come apart at the seams. Terrified at the loss of their miraculous blessing, Bobby struggles to reconcile his love for his daughter and his duty to care for his people.

The King Tide is the modern equivalent of a Grimm fairy tale. Embedded with a compelling blend of whimsy and horror, the film feels like an inquest into the human soul, exposing the darkest corners of humanity. Isolated on a coastal island, this is meant to be a place that has become protected from the evils of the outside world. Though ‘mainlanders’ travel around their waters, contact with the them never takes place. These Islanders demand their privacy, especially with Isla bringing life to their small community. As a result, though set in the present day, the setting makes King Tide seem frozen in time. Technological advancements have no place here anymore as they continue to live their ‘simple lives’. (In fact, even the discovery of an old television that plays dated sitcoms feels like a grand revelation.)

But who needs modern devices when Isla makes life simple?

In Isla, this community has found hope that sparks eternal. There is peace when she can bring healing to their ailments and bounty to their fishermen. To them, this young girl has taken on a god-like role as she answers prayers and blesses those in need. (“Many thanks to Isla,” they say reverently when they leave her presence.) 

But when that dependence is threatened, things begin to shift. Suddenly, these men and women who have praised her no view her only through the lens of their own needs. After all, empty fishing nets mean potential struggle for everyone. To them, Isla’s gift means safety and security. And they believe their rights matter more than those of a child.

Torn between his duties is Bobby. As the village mayor, they depend upon him to keep the peace and bring prosperity to his people. But, as a parent, he wants to protect Isla from those who would take advantage of her. (“There’s a schedule for a reason,” he argues.) It’s worth noting that Crawford does a wonderful job as Bobby, offering the simple humanity of a father who desires nothing more but the safety of his daughter. Yes, she has a gift that his people depend on. But his love for her matters most.

By exposing the evil within, Sparkes peels back the layers of the human heart. In this way, Tide taps into the sort of darkness that can rip families and communities to shreds. Though everyone claims to have others’ best interests in mind, it is the toxicity of selfishness that Sparkes brings to the forefront. Despite claiming righteous piety, these peaceful Islanders allows their fear to break themselves down. In many ways, it’s staggering to watch and yet feels so honest at the same time.

In the end, King Tide proves to be fearless in the horror of its psychology. Though not particularly graphic, this fantasy world successfully chills its audience with its realistic look at humanity. 

Many thanks to Isla. 

The King Tide is available in theatres on Friday, April 26th, 2024.

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