“October Gale,” a new film from “Cairo Time” director Ruba Nadda, is a hybrid of romance and thriller that cares about it’s characters more than it does about moving the audience to the edge of their collective seats.
Patricia Clarkson is Helen Matthews, a Toronto doctor grieving the loss of her husband (Callum Keith Rennie). For solace she retreats to a remote, picturesque cottage in Georgian Bay. Her time of quiet reflection and healing is disrupted, however, by the appearance of Will, a mysterious and seriously injured young man, played by Scott Speedman. She plays nurse, they talk and flirt and soon Helen finds herself drawn to the stranger. Trouble is, Tom (Tim Roth), the man who wounded Will to begin with, has every intention of dropping by to finish the job.
“October Gale” has all the elements of a thriller—people with mysterious pasts meet in a remote location on a dark and stormy night—but Nadda subverts the conventions of the genre by taking her time getting to the thrills. Instead she builds the tension carefully, walking through Helen’s grief in a beautifully played first act. Clarkson is at her best here, subtly and beautifully showing not only her loss but also her resiliency in the face of sorrow. Once we get to know Helen, William appears adding another layer to the story. By the time we get to the thriller aspect of “October Gale” Nadda makes sure we care for and are invested in the characters.
“October Gale” isn’t a typical thriller. It’s a thriller without many thrills, but lots of soul. Nadda does not slavishly try and ape Hitchcock or the other masters of the genre, but follows her heart instead.