Imogen Poots And Alex Wolff Struggle In The Addiction Drama “Castle In The Ground”
No matter what kind of story you’re trying to tell, getting two talented actors for central roles is an excellent first step. In the case of Castle in the Ground, even a premise that descends into some questionable territory is heavily mitigated by who you’re watching engage in these acts. Here, it’s Imogen Poots and Alex Wolff, with the latter having a truly tough leading role to play (the former has the best moments though, by far). The movie goes to some dark places and makes some debatable narrative decisions, but Poots and Wolff are so inherently watchable that you’re willing to forgive some of its trespasses.
The movie is a drama about addiction. Henry (Wolff) is taking care of his sick mother Rebecca (Neve Campbell). She doesn’t have long to live, with her pain managed by medicine that Henry dispenses to her. When she passes away, Henry is at a loss, breaking up with his girlfriend and trying the pain medication for himself. At the same time, he’s been observing his junkie next door neighbor Ana (Poots). As the teen grieves, he befriends the troubled Ana, slowly getting swallowed up in her world. In short order, Henry becomes deeply involved in not just addiction, but a string of potential violence. Their small town is being taken over by opioid addiction, and the epidemic plans to spare no one. Joey Klein writes and directs, with cinematography by Bobby Shore, as well as a score from Chris Hyson. Supporting players include Tom Cullen, Keir Gilchrist, Kiowa Gordon, and more.
Most of the appeal here is watching the combo of Imogen Poots and Alex Wolff, even if it gets tough to watch what happens to them at times. Neve Campbell is very solid, too, but she’s only in the film for a limited period of time. Wolff showcases a quiet grief and longing that’s palpably affecting. Poots goes far bigger, having to display a range of emotions, but she’s hypnotic, regardless of whether she’s charismatic and charming, or sad and pitiful. The bond/friendship they develop, regardless of the dependency at its core, is compelling to watch and unfortunately completely believable/real. That’s a credit to Poots and Wolff, who do some real heavy lifting here.
Castle in the Ground is at its best before it becomes a bit of a thriller. Writer/director Joey Klein is keenly interested in observing his characters, as well as watching his protagonist Henry observe others. When there’s less overtly dramatic and melodramatic acts being depicted, this approach works best. Klein gives in to trying to bring some genre elements into play as the second act turns into the third act, but it’s a misstep that doesn’t disrupt what’s compelling here. The opioid crisis is so terrible and so thoroughly engrained in our American society, adding these crime elements to it really doesn’t do much, except bring about a sense of artifice.
Now available, Castle in the Ground is a hard watch, but is overall a well acted film that rewards you sticking with it. You’ll have to get through some rough moments, but Imogen Poots and Alex Wolff make it worthwhile. It may hit a bit close to home for some, but that’s also the intent. The movie doesn’t shy away from tough truths, and that, along with the performances, allows it to be worthy of a recommendation. Joey Klein has some heavy thoughts on his mind, distilling them into an imperfect, but still interesting, flick. If you can handle it, take a look and see what you think…
Be sure to check out Castle in the Ground, out now on Digital!
(Photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)