For many years, the British film industry has rightly been accused of being London-centric; often dominated by gritty urban dramas, dire comedies or ridiculous ‘mockney’ gangster films. Thankfully, there’s been a noticeable shift over the last few years. Introducing more variety of locations and diversity of stories. Clio Barnard has championed Yorkshire. Her first film, The Arbor, was a remarkable documentary about the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. She followed it up with The Selfish Giant, one of the best British films of 2013. Dark River carries on her hot streak.
After the death of her father (Sean Bean), Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns home to the family farm for the first time in 15 years. She finds her brother Joe (Mark Stanley), who had to nurse him until he died, in a bad way and far from happy to see her. As is the farm. With the tenancy coming up for renewal, Alice is determined to make the farm work. However, Joe is adamant that they can’t work together. The trauma of their shared history keeps coming between them.
Dark River is a disturbing drama about dark family secrets, the daily struggle tenant farmers face to survive and an inherent longing to return to our roots. The ruggedness and beauty of the Yorkshire landscape is magnificently captured by Adriano Goldman, whilst Barnard emphasises the danger and darkness which lurks amongst those hills. Wilson and Stanley are both superb. Their characters are like magnets, continually pushing each other apart however much they really need each other. Dark River is a gripping tale of two siblings trying to find each other whilst the past hangs over them like a pall.
Dark River is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Arrow Academy on 25 June.