TIFF ’23: The King Tide

What is the downside of a miracle? 

Directed by Christian Sparkes, The King Tide takes place in a close-knit—but isolated—community off the coast of Newfoundland. Let by its loving mayor Bobby (Clayne Crawford), the townfolk live simple lives as struggling fishermen. Things begin to change though with the arrival of Isla, an infant who literally washes up on shore. Taken in by Bobby and his wife to be raised as their daughter, Isla has unique gifts of healing and hope that help the village in countless ways. However, as Isla grows and her abilities begin to fade, the townsfolk begin to make demands that put their needs above her own, leaving Bobby to weigh the love of his daughter against the needs of his people.

Beginning as a quaint folktale, King Tide initially charms the viewer through its lush countryside and quaintness. There’s a certain pastoral allure about these lovely townsfolk and their simple life that warms the heart (and the hearth). These are proud people who love one another deeply. However, their gratitude for a miracle begins to fade when they feel as though it is being taken away. Suddenly there’s an evil that bubbles underneath the surface, threatening to destroy the beauty that surrounds the community from within. 

In many ways, King Tide is a film that highlights the darkest nature of mankind as they appear benevolent when things are going well, but become cruel when faced with hardship. To them, Isla has become a god-like figure and bitterness sets in when they do not receive what they feel they deserve. While their fear seems understandable under the circumstance, there’s a certain disdain for humanity within the script that gives the film its edge. 

Featuring strong performances by its cast, The King Tide is a surprisingly engaging character piece. Led by the always endearing Crawford, every member of the case feels committed to this grim (Grimm?) fairy tale. However, like the best of fairy tales, King Tide also shines a light on the broken soul of humanity as it attempts to navigate the struggles of daily life.

The King Tide is now playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.

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