TIFF Review – Lakewood
Lakewood (2021) follows Amy Carr (Naomi Watts), a mother who is jogging in the woods. She has already sent her youngest off to school, and her teenage son Noah (Colton Gobbo) is still in bed, saying he is not going to school. It is about a year after the father passed away, and it is evident that the family is still healing. While being disturbed multiple times by phone on her run, Amy turns on the do not disturb feature. Later on, her phone displays an emergency alert saying the local schools are in lockdown. Still in the middle of the forest, Amy panics about where her children are and how to get to them.
The film’s script is by Chris Sparling, who also wrote Buried (2010), starring Ryan Reynolds. There are definite similarities between the two stories, both main characters being isolated, and a phone is their only connection to other people. However, Ryan Reynold’s character is actually trapped in a coffin and cannot get out. In Lakewood, Amy is not trapped; she is just in the woods for a run and is fully capable of using her legs to run to the children’s schools which Google Maps says is an hour away.
While Amy doesn’t think she can get there fast enough by just continuing to run, she also stops multiple times to take or make calls to learn the current status of her kids. She also calls a Lyft, which doesn’t end up being much help considering her location.
While I think parents can empathize with Amy’s situation and her mindset, I also have to mention that using a school shooting while timely is not the best plot point for this story. The shooter and the lockdown situation didn’t feel like it was given the time or care to use this subject in this film. It all felt very superficial, especially the ending.
Considering this film was shot during a COVID-19 lockdown, director Phillip Noyce had a script that would not need a large cast or crew and could be shot in the remote woods. It’s the kind of script made for filming restrictions; however, just because it can be made doesn’t mean that it should be. The film largely felt off, whether from Naomi Watts’ sometimes rigid acting or from a script that could have used some further development. It all felt too convenient.
I was lucky to screen Lakewood virtually at home because the yelling at Amy to keep moving and the sounds of exasperation at what was happening would not have gone over too well in a theatre. If your main character doesn’t have much common sense, it will be difficult for the audience to identify with her and realize they would make the same mistakes. I think any other parent with a fully charged phone and the ability to run would make better choices. Lakewood is meant to be thrilling, nail-biting, and make us nervous about what happens next. Unfortunately, the film misses all those marks.