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Santiago Reyes
Santiago Reyes

The Song Of Sway Lake

But Hal died and the land around the lake slipped away. By 1992, development and Jetskis were pushing in on Crane Point Lodge, and depressed heir Tim Sway (Jason Brill) drowned himself in the lake that winter.

The Song of Sway Lake

Co-writer/director Ari Gold struggles to match antagonist with protagonist, neither of which is on much display in this piecemeal coming-of-age movie whose greatest strength rests inside its lush autumnal setting of an idyllic [fictional] lake in upstate New York.

A rare 78 record offers the solution to an estranged family's money woes in this gorgeous-looking, wistful drama from director Ari Gold. It's 1992 and wayward Ollie Sway (Rory Culkin) returns to the idyllic lakeside home of his youth - vacant since his disc-collecting dad's suicide - with the express purpose of stealing his priceless "perfect record". However, Ollie's fortune-hunting in the company of hedonistic Russian buddy Nikolai (an in-his-element Robert Sheehan) is abruptly sidetracked when his haughty grandmother Charlie (Mary Beth Peil) arrives with plans of her own. The opening of old wounds eventually gives way to soul-searching and emotional revelations, played out in a dreamy, sun-dappled location (Blue Mountain Lake in New York state) dripping with nostalgia thanks to an evocative soundtrack of swing and jazz tunes. Gold should be applauded for not succumbing to sentimentality and glib clichés - the nascent romance between Ollie and local girl Isadora (Isabelle McNally) is refreshingly awkward. But he's also lucky to have such a committed cast, with Peil (better known for her stage work and as a regular on Dawson's Creek) outstanding here, especially in scenes alongside the late Elizabeth Peña (in her final role as Charlie's Cuban maid).

Spending summers in the Adirondacks as a kid, I became fascinated by this giant swath of wilderness that seemed to exist outside of time. In the lakes was the history of the great American royalty, now in decline and often in conflict with year-round residents. My grandparents, while not members of this royalty, aspired to it. But the present was always catching up to them, as it is to everyone whose nostalgia gives even the sunny days a hint of melancholy. The real sway is always out of reach.

In addition to the great honor of making a sex symbol of Mary Beth Peil, one of the unforgettable experiences of my life was working with Elizabeth Peña, an actor of such fierce intelligence that she suggested making the character of Marlena almost silent, due to the secrets and burdens she carries. What a rare actor, asking the director to remove lines! She was right, and I will never forget rowing across the lake for midnight conversation with Elizabeth, to plot these secrets and silences. Her loss is a huge one. 041b061a72


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