The Island Between the Tides : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on March 7, 2024 in / No Comments


2024 Cinequest Film Festival

Going into The Island Between the Tides blind – not knowing its origins or anything outside a base plot description – allows this film’s mysteries and inner workings to be discovered with surprise. Conversely, knowing what the film is based upon adds a different shade to the proceedings, changing perceptions irreversibly and drawing parallels to the original author’s most famous creation. I’m caught at a crossroads as to how to approach this review, because I enjoyed this film immensely, having jumped in without any prior knowledge of its origins. Thus, I will not mention the original author – who receives credit at the end of the film – as this knowledge will no doubt color your thoughts and ruin what this movie has in store for its audience.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, XYZ Films, The Island Between the Tides, Cinequest Film FestivalLooking at the film’s craft and intent, directors Austin Andrews and Andrew Holmes (who also carry screenwriting credits) infuse this story with sci-fi, horror, drama, and love, all tied together by the supernatural. One of the strokes they use to paint this picture is that they refuse to hand the film’s inner workings to us on a silver platter, engaging us thoroughly and without remorse. Each little bit of knowledge is hard-earned, sometimes at a perilous or sad cost. And sometimes, understanding how this film works is head-scratching and a bit frustrating, but Andrews and Holmes have the good decency to at least help us make sense of it in the end.

Cinematographer Dany Lavoie strikes a wondrous balance with his shots, making the titular island seem both innocuous and dangerous; the trees give us comfort while the rocky shores give us trepidation. It’s a balance that permeates everything in Andrews and Holmes’ film about a girl who falls prey to the siren call of this island, disappearing twice on it – once as a child and another as an adult. Both times, she’s only there for a matter of minutes or hours, but to her family, her childhood and adulthood disappearances respectively lasted for days and years. It’s an island that exists outside of time and in all of time simultaneously; as both child and adult, Lily (child: Remy Marthaller/adult: Paloma Kwiatkowski) encounters people who may not exist at the point in time she enters the island’s woods, which might add to our confusion.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, XYZ Films, The Island Between the Tides, Cinequest Film FestivalEach time Lily disappears, she reappears to her family as if she hasn’t been gone at all. There’s a severe time slip the second time she goes back to the island; instead of coming back to 1998 as she expects, she’s shocked to see newspapers with 2024 datelines. More importantly, she’s even more horrified at watching a one-eyed man stab someone in a brutal fight while other passersby take absolutely no notice. The only person who can possibly understand what she’s seeing is her now-grown son, Jared (David Mazouz), who has bolted into madness and seclusion because of his own experiences. They’re the only two who hear the island’s song and see the people out of time, and the song is getting louder for both of them.

There’s a lovely, awkward-yet-graceful quietude Paloma Kwiatkowski gives to Lily; even before she goes to the island a second time, we see Lily as a haunted figure, speaking introspectively and sadly with her sister Zinnia (Camille Sullivan). While everyone around her seems animated and lively, Lily is a mere shell, walking in their world but detached from it. Kwiatkowski portrays Lily as being in a constant state of grief without exactly knowing what she’s grieving. Her toddler Jared (played as a child by Layla Reid) should at least make her smile, but even he’s displaying shades of neurodivergence. It’s as if Lily can see a shift in her world versus that of her family, but she can’t make heads or tails of it; she knows something’s wrong and she can’t put it right, and Kwiatkowski does precarious work in seating Lily carefully within this divide.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, XYZ Films, The Island Between the Tides, Cinequest Film FestivalThe two different worlds are starkly defined by their color palettes; muted tones of regular life contrast the more saturated vibrance enshrining the island and its appearance  (through action or the presence of another island visitor) in the real world. Andrews and Holmes – along with colorist Scott McKenzie – expertly and subtly wield their color grades to push our emotional involvement and add another layer to their visual storytelling. They also reframe the opening from a taller image to a more closed-in “scope” aspect ratio, which enhances how Lily feels in a world that has moved on without her and helps pay off one of the questions left hanging from the introduction.

The film swings from the supernatural to horror to family drama with wild aplomb, but Andrews and Holmes maintain a steady flow throughout by not giving prominence to any of those descriptors. Instead, they ply us with the tension of the unknown and the sadness of loss, goosing us every now and again with frights and action. The appearance of a ghostly figure in a house certainly turns up the scare factor a bit and takes away the safety of a place our characters call “home.” Places that provide us comfort are turned upside down, and there’s no respite, even with the golden, glowing tones of life on the island and its unknown nature. The Island Between the Tides excels because of this constant unease that settles in quickly and doesn’t go away, even as the last sequence fades and the credits roll.

Not Rated by the MPA (contains violence, some language, and the aftermath of a suicide – equivalent to PG-13). Running time: 99 minutes. Premiered March 7, 2024 at the Cinequest Film Festival.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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