Set in Sudbury, Ontario, circa 2012, the film stars Alex Wolff as Henry, a young man nursing his mother (Neve Campbell) through the final stages of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Across the hall is neighbor Ana, a young woman struggling to pull herself out of the pit of addiction. When Henry’s mother dies Ana and the grieving son are drawn together, but this isn’t a mother and son sickness of the week story or a Bukowskian tale of rough romance. It’s a co-dependency thriller set against a backdrop of Ana’s plan to rip off her dealer Polo Boy (Keir Gilchrist). Henry is drawn into the scheme and a life of opioid addiction.
“Castle in the Ground” is a carefully crafted character study of a naïve—or willfully ignorant— man and a Machiavellian addict. Wolff, who impressed in Ari Aster’s “Heredity,” holds the screen during director Joey Klein’s long, unhurried scenes. He brings the hurt of a heartbroken guy, now looking for a connection, even if it isn’t in his best interest. But it is Poots who impresses. Her take on Ana is vividly painted as she plays a cat-and-mouse game with Henry in order to get what she wants. As the situations spirals her chirpy, “everything is going to be OK” assurances, become more ominous.
This is a depressing film, unburdened by light at the end of the tunnel. Dark, visually and thematically, it’s a movie about internal conflict, pain, depression and indulgence that spares none of its characters. Everyone, no matter how sympathetic, are complicit in the lead up to the film’s fiery climax.
“Castle in the Ground” is an up-close-and-personal look at a very large issue. It offers no solutions or searing insight as to how the opioid problem spun so far out of control. Instead, it is simply a well-made and well-acted look at life in a time of personal crisis.