Little Bone Lodge (2023)

Director: Matthias Hoene

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Joely Richardson, Neil Linpow, Sadie Soverall, Harry Cadby, Roger Ajogbe, Euan Bennet, Cameron Jack, Sharon Young, Clifford Samuel

Director Matthias Hoene opens his film with a foreboding voiceover describing a mother as someone who will protect her family regardless of the cost, and there's no telling what she is capable of if her family is harmed. That thought lingers as the film unfolds in the Scottish Highlands, on a remote farmhouse ran singlehandedly by Mama (Joely Richardson). She lives with her daughter, Maisy (Sadie Soverall), as they care for the wheelchair-bound Pa (Roger Ajogbe), who has been left weakened ever since a car accident took Ollie, a young boy whose loss still hurts Mama.

The atmosphere is appropriately set by the storm outside, before the family's night is interrupted by some harsh knocking on the door. Matty (Harry Cadby) pleads for help from outside, as a car accident has left his brother Jack (Neil Linpow) in need of medical attention. Mama agrees to help, tending to the injuries and taking the pair in for the night. While Mama may not know what she's letting into her home, the brothers are equally unaware of what lies within the farmhouse.

As the self-sufficient farm holds no means of outside communication, these confined settings become the source of a claustrophobic scenario which brings out these characters' true faces. The brothers are driven by an owed debt which weighs over them, while Jack focuses on paying it off and maintaining control through intimidation and manipulation. His outward nastiness is a contrast to Matty, whose sweetness masks darker elements. Key to the film is Richardson, commanding the screen with her terrific performance as the matriarch with a murky history and a determination to protect her loved ones, ensuring she's a force to be reckoned with.

The interpersonal drama takes prominence in this story as family members become aware of how their lives are controlled by their loved ones, causing relationships to grow strained. Tensions rise as dark secrets come to light, control switches between characters, and unfortunate truths are revealed. Core to it all is Neil Linpow's taut script, gripping viewers' attention as they're taking down a horrific rabbit hole, while the disorientating turns are visually conveyed through rotating camerawork. While the story may get overly busy in the final act, it doesn't detract from the effectiveness of this tightly crafted and confined tale.

Little Bone Lodge is available on Digital Download from 22nd May