On my last night at Fantasia, I was fortunate enough to catch John McNaughton's newest film The Harvest.
Bed-ridden Andy (Charlie Tahan) knows little of the world beyond the confines of his room and the smothering care of his mother (Samantha Morton). When Maryann (Natalia Calis) moves in next door and strikes up a friendship with Andy, his mother immediately puts a stop to it. Is she simply being overprotective, or does she have something to hide?
I loved this film. It just goes to show you how versatile a director McNaughton really is, as The Harvest is quite different in tone than his previous genre pictures. It has none of the stark morosity of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or the overt and gore-laden comedy of The Borrower, yet despite this innocence, still maintains a playfully dark flavour.
It's more of a PG-13 thriller told largely from the kid's perspectives and I, as a kid who grew up in the eighties, really respond to these types of stories. You've heard me mention an underseen gem from the UK called Paperhouse and there are moments in The Harvest that capture that kind of magic. The flawless representations of youth and friendship had me smiling a lot, and I was, therefore, completely invested when they were ultimately threatened.
Due to my mention of the phrase “PG-13”, you'd be right in assuming that the film is not particularly edgy by today's standards, but that doesn't take anything away from its quality. Its conclusion was slightly less satisfying than I would've liked, but admittedly, anything over-the-top may have betrayed the grounded center of the story.
|Samantha Morton & Charlie Tahan in The Harvest.|
Everything about this production was top-notch and infinitely helped by the gravitas brought by veterans like Michael Shannon and Peter Fonda. You really couldn't have found two better youngsters either. Charlie Tahan – who I'd just coincidentally watched in Burning Bright on the train ride up to Montreal – and Natalia Calis – the best thing, by and large, about the 2012 flick The Possession – were wonderful together as Andy & Maryann.
The real standout here though, was Samantha Morton as Andy's domineering mother, Katharine. I would put this performance up there with some of my favourite film maternals, like Rebecca De Mornay's Payton Flanders in The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and Kathy Bates' Annie Wilkes from Misery. Morton is positively scary and able to convey it with just a look. You will constantly be in awe about how she could be so dreadful to her own family.
|Director John McNaughton.|
This is a tight thriller that plays to a horror fan of any age. It is so solid, in fact, that it makes me sad we had to wait over a decade for McNaughton to bring us a new feature. So, here's hoping he has broken ground on a new chapter in his career.