About the worst thing I can say regarding “Under Still Waters” is that its title bears little relevancy to its plot. “Three’s a Crowd” would be more appropriate, although that would make it sound like a comedy, and if there’s one thing this film doesn’t have, it’s laughs.
Good thing it’s a thriller, then.
Lake Bell and Jason Clarke portray couple Charlie and Andrew, married, but in a toxic relationship. She’s a beer heiress with alcoholic tendencies; he’s a struggling architect with an inferiority complex. She has all the money in the world; he has too much pride to go work for his father-in-law.
They plan to get away for the weekend at her family “farm,” which is more like a sprawling manse on the lake, with no phone, TV or Internet. Plans for a blissful escape, however, go awry when their paths cross with Jacob (Clifton Collins Jr.), a stranded, skeevy-looking photographer for whom they play Good Samaritan.
Through a series of unfortunate situations, however, getting his motorcycle gassed up and him out of there isn’t so easy. The guy’s also got a gun on him. And what you think is going to happen, doesn’t. Writer/director Carolyn Miller excels at playing on viewers’ expectations. As humans, we’re apt to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, and Miller allows us to, in order to turn them upside-down later. Even an early plothole is later explained away.
This is a sharp-looking film, beautifully photographed, quietly paced and forever unnerving. The real revelation here is Bell. I’ve seen her in many things before, but I’d never thought of her as gorgeous or particularly talented. That all changed here. With locks befitting Veronica Lake, she pours herself into her role as the drop-dead-sexy woman who toys with both the men in her life at the moment, for entirely different reasons. Clarke and Collins quite convincingly allow themselves to be, in this minor gem. “Rod Lott