Black Pond Review
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Black Pond bills itself as a black comedy about a suburban English family who find themselves labeled a “family of killers” after a stranger dies in their home. While the term “comedy” can be applied loosely in situations like this, I’m not sure this 2012 effort from directors Tom Kingsley and Will Sharpe ever quite earns it. Rather, it’s a bit too caught up in its own idiosyncrasies and those of its characters to connect with any but the driest and most individual sense of humor.

Told through a combination of fake interviews and straightforward narrative, Black Pond begins when Tom Thompson (Chris Langham) meets the eccentric Blake (Colin Hurley) walking along the titular pond. A manchild given to rambling poetic monologues, Blake is quickly taken in by Tom and his wife, Sophie (Amanda Hadingue). Throw in Tom and Sophie’s daughters, Katie (Anna O’Grady) and Jess (Helen Cripps), and their depressed roommate, Tim (Sharpe), and you’ve got a stewpot of odd characters primed for something to happen.

We’re told from the beginning that Blake is going to end up buried in the woods and that the Thompsons will be implicated, and the rest of the film is spent waiting for it to happen. Meanwhile, the members of this dysfunctional family squabble, tell deep, meaningful stories to each other, and stare blankly into space from time to time. It’s not that this can’t be the basis for good drama—or, for that matter, good black comedy—but these characters are so thinly drawn that it’s hard to get invested in any of them. Tom gets a bit more development than the rest, but even then it’s typically to act as a mouthpiece for Sharpe’s ruminations on life and death.

That’s a shame, too—because there are some genuinely beautiful moments in the film. Like a lot of young directors, Kingsley and Sharpe appear to be trying out certain techniques just because they want to see what works. They play with composition, editing, and music in ways that would be positively gorgeous in a different context. Most of the dialogue and narration wobbles between overwrought and bad improv, but there are a couple of lines here and a story there that will hit hard and stay with you. There simply aren’t enough of them to compensate for the glacially paced narrative and lack of compelling characters.

I can’t really recommend Black Pond as either black comedy or drama, simply because it fails to engage either genre in a meaningful way. Kingsley and Sharpe show promise, however, and I do hope to see more from them. If they can refine the cinematic voice that they hint at here, I’m sure they’ll find a story worthy of it.

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