Any traveller faced with crossing Spirit Lake wouldn’t give it a second thought. While it is indeed a magnificent lake, it doesn’t immediately stand out from all the others. What makes it unique is hidden in its depths, far away from prying sunlight. Spirit Lake is unusually deep, so much so that no one has ever reached the bottom. The eccentric Dr. Amelia Brooks has dedicated many years of her life trying to shed some light on its inexplicable mystery. Her research site has unfortunately turned into her tomb, as she hasn’t returned to the surface since her final, fatal dive. Soon after her death, her three daughters, Annie, June, and Isa, head to Spirit Lake to rediscover their family home while being forced to face sometimes-disquieting memories and irreparable marks left by their conflicted relationship with their mother. Artist at heart, youngest sister June takes advantage of the situation to obsessively log her siblings’ every move. Her camera captures every tense moment between Annie and Isa, as well as the strange events that have started to occur since that night when the Brooks sister jokingly summoned the spirits of seven sisters that drowned in Spirit Lake. An act heavy in repercussions that led them to believe that they have awaken a maleficent presence that, having gotten their mother, is now trying to bewitch the unsuspecting trio.
Transporting its audience to a place drenched in the supernatural, THE MIDNIGHT SWIM dances a nocturnal waltz with the unknown. A phantasmagoric atmosphere reminiscent of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK emanates from this brilliant debut feature. The realism of its documentary-like imagery shrouds an invisible fairy-tale world. The over-exploited “found footage” sub-genre is approached here in a welcome new way. It brings the genre back to ground zero, stripping it of eye-catching effects that would hinder the narrative in favour of aesthetics. The same goes for the fantastic element, which director Sarah Adina Smith holds purposely holds back to keep the audience focused on the touching, Bergmanesque tale of three women confronting a past with which they’re trying to make peace. An approach similar to that of TOAD ROAD generates a duality between folkloric beliefs and the growing insanity of the heartwarming and enigmatic June (the amazing Lindsay Burdge). Like old folk legend told under sparkling stars, THE MIDNIGHT SWIM will captivate you as few other features this year will. Let yourselves be swayed by the unpredictable currant of Spirit Lake.
— Simon Laperrière