DVD Review - Porcupine Lake

After the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain (2005) made the cultural impact it did, many LGBT films or films about same-sex attraction between closeted men in their 20's and 30's that came in its wake drew comparisons. The same could be said about this year's Oscar-winning Call Me By Your Name (2017), a film about same-sex attraction involving a teenager in a lush or rustic landscape during the summer. This movie draws comparisons. Instead of northern Italy, here it's southeastern Canada, specifically Port Severn, Ontario. Instead of a teenage boy, here it's a prepubescent girl. Writer-director Ingrid Veninger, however, isn't burdened with the age-difference argument of that 2017 romance.

Here, both teens are the same age. Both are 13, and, as I remarked in my review of Esteros (2016), there aren't too many films that explore the sexual desires of people before high school or before age 14 that isn't traumatic, and the majority of those are between heterosexual attraction. As I also remarked in my review of Eighth Grade, in general, there aren't many films that explore a prepubescent girl's coming-of-age. The past few years have seen that tide changing and Veninger's film is part of that tide.

Charlotte Salisbury stars as Bea, a 13-year-old who at the beginning is traveling by car with her mom and pet dog from Toronto to Port Severn. They're going to join Bea's dad who has inherited a tiny diner that Bea's grandfather used to own there. She's shy as one might be having been transplanted to a new place. She doesn't have a smart phone, so it's not totally clear if the story is set in present-day, but one assumes it is. She likes to sell knick-knacks or small crafts in front of her father's diner. She sits in front of the diner lazily doing so until one day, Bea takes an interest in another girl who walks by.

Lucinda Armstrong Hall co-stars as Kate, the aforementioned girl who walks by. She's also 13, but she is not shy. She in return takes an interest in Kate and is in fact the one who approaches her. Whereas Bea is very introverted, Kate is very outgoing. Unlike Bea, she's also not afraid to say or demand what she wants, particularly when it comes to sexual things. Kate even has to be the one to teach Bea about sexual things. For example, Bea didn't seem to know what a penis was, so Kate has to tell her.

Like the Icelandic film Heartstone (Hjartasteinn), this film also from Breaking Glass Pictures centers on the two teens or tweens just hanging out. They hang out at each other's houses. They wander through the woods and even lounge by a nearby lake. In that, there's again a lot of similarity to Call Me By Your Name, including a lack of homophobia in terms of any direct actions or characters. Homophobia perhaps exists here on the periphery and seeps in somewhat, but it's never an active force here.

In the vein of Call Me By Your Name, the denouement revolves around one of the two girls, namely Bea, having to leave. Yet, not enough was dedicated to why Bea had to leave. It would have added to the film's length, but developing that more would have been helpful. It would have meant getting more from the parents, which was perhaps enough, but the parents get bare minimum. The other girl, namely Kate, doesn't want to be abandoned and wants to join Bea in Toronto. Even though Veninger paints an adequate picture of why Kate wants to join Bea and get away from her life in Port Severn, developing that more would have been helpful too. There are certain questions about Kate's home life, including a weird and violent scene involving her brother, Romeo, played by Harrison Tanner, but those questions are more an albatross than an accentuation by the end of the movie.

Not Rated but contains sexual references and brief, mild violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 24 mins.


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