15 – 90mins – 2015
A miserably ‘atmospheric’ and tediously slow set-off which takes an excruciating 25 unexciting minutes to reveal a Sixth Sense-esque supernatural “twist” which was given away in the first line of the back cover synopsis meant that I didn’t journey beyond half an hour the first time I tried to traverse this gloomy psychological thriller from Australia.
Utilising his naturally soft delivery and strained expression, Adrien Brody is perfectly cast as psychiatrist-with-inner-demons Peter Bower, himself seeking help from fellow professional Duncan Stewart (the ever-dependable Sam Neill), following a family tragedy the guilt-ridden family man has failed to recover from.
A mystery surrounding the identity of a strange young girl who keeps showing up at his practise leads Peter to question not only his sanity but his memory, too, and one particular date in 1987, for some curious reason… Backtracking (groan) to his quiet rural homestead in the aptly named False Creek, Peter returns to where his retired cop pa (George Shevtsov) is living a lonely existence to see if he can find some answers in his past and exorcise his troubled mind.
Penned and directed by The Book Thief (2014) and Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) screenwriter Michael Petroni, I hopped back on board the derailed Backtrack after a couple of days out of service, and I’m extremely glad I did. While the pace never races beyond a gallop, once Peter sets the path to clarity in motion, a truly gripping narrative rises to the fore which links all dangling plot threads effectively and culminates in a horrendously grim – but successfully unpredictable – reveal.
If you can look past the hokey pun of a title, persevere through a mopey, stalling introduction, and don’t consider daylight or dry weather a requisite stipulation in your movies, then when you alight at the end of the line, Backtrack will have rectified its shortcomings and delivering a tense and spine-chilling dark mystery.