This bizarre mockumentary tells the fictional story of the Thompson family who were accused of murder after a relative stranger died at their dinner table. The film comprises of traditional talking head interviews with the family members and ‘dramatisation’ of the events leading up to Blake dying at the table in their house. Patriarch of the family Tom (brilliantly played by Chris Langham) meets Blake (a creepy but endearing Colin Hurley) as he is walking his three legged dog Boy at the nearby Black pond. Blake is an awkward individual who has a tendency to spout existential nonsense. What develops is an uncomfortable acquaintance as Blake ends up back at the Thompson’s house and stays the night. Events occur that lead to the Thompson daughters, Katie and Jess, returning to the family home with their friend Tim, and having to deal with the random appearance and death of Blake.
Black Pond is full of dark humour from beginning to end and the performances by Langham and Hurley are perfect, both hilarious and heart breaking at the same time. The humorous nature of the film does go a little too far in the scenes with Simon Amstell as a dubious therapist who is supposed to be counselling Tim after the death of Blake, but there are still some memorable moments in there. The dialogue is truly brilliant and it completely holds the film together along with the outstanding performances. The dream sequence that is constructed of various styles and techniques, including animation which is featured at the beginning of the film, is wonderful and demonstrates the creative talent of directors Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe who also jointly wrote the screenplay.
It certainly was not the film I thought it was going to be from reading the synopsis but that is definitely not a bad thing and I thoroughly enjoyed Black Pond. There are some truly cringe worthy moments, deliberately so may I add, and the awkward and often painful interactions between the characters are so well observed and acted I found myself forgetting I was watching a mock documentary.
There are some really nice additions to the film as well, particularly the Youtube video vignettes of the daughters performing little songs, one about their dog Boy and another about Blake that had been ‘removed’. These amusing accompaniments add comic relief but also aid character development and help Black Pond to be a memorable and distinctive film.
For all the humour Black Pond still retains some serious undertones and is actually rather moving when the main event takes place. Blake transforms from a strange oddity into a lost soul who cannot cope with the tragedy he has experienced and most of us can relate to something in this. The film certainly has depth and it gradually creeps up on you and will more than likely stay with you for a long time after.
The directors have cleverly picked up on a style of filmmaking that has recently become popular in documentary filmmaking, recently seen in Carol Morley’s Dreams of a Life (2011) at this year’s LFF, where talking heads are combined with dramatization with a blurring of lines between what is real and what is reproduced. The film also loosely addresses the press and how stories are depicted by them which is also a trend seen in recent documentaries such as Errol Morris’ Tabloid (2010) and again Morley’s Dreams of a Life.
Black Pond does feel like a first film which is not necessarily a criticism and there is a lot of creativity and vision in this first offering. The dialogue is spot on and writers/directors Kingsley and Sharpe have produced a strong film that is cleverly constructed and feels original and fresh. The parts with Amstell do feel a bit like another film entirely but for the most part the various styles are integrated nicely. Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable dark comedy with lots to say and a surprising amount of depth, I urge people to go and seek this one out wherever you can.
Directors: Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe
Writers: Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe
Cast: Chris Langham, Simon Amstell, Sophia Di Martino, Colin Hurley
Runtime: 83 mins