Director Lynne Stopkewich created waves with her controversial first feature, Kissed, a surprisingly tender and humorous study of a young necrophile coming to terms with her taboo sexuality. Based on a novel by U.S. writer Laura Kasischke, Suspicious River is another challenging tale about an emotionally damaged woman. On the surface, Leila (Molly Parker) has a normal, fairly humdrum life. She is married and works as a receptionist at a motel on the outskirts of a small town. But Leila punctuates her days by escaping to the nearby river, where she dreams of a different life, and moonlights as a prostitute by selling sexual favours to the motel’s guests. When she meets Gary (Callum Keith), who combines mean roughness with tender flattery, Leila gets sucked into a demented and potentially lethal relationship.
An even more disturbing account of the extremes one woman will go to discover her true self than Stopkewich and the fearless Molly Parker provided in Kissed, Suspicious River has a visual and narrative eeriness that’s wholly compelling. Typically, the director leaves it to the audience to decide how complicit Leila is in the horrific events which unfold. The remarkable Parker is equally subtle, almost blank-faced, as Leilia, who at first appears clueless about what she wants or why she acts the way she does. As the light slowly begins to dawn, her desire for self-destruction becomes overwhelmingly palpable. 2000. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 92 mins.