School shootings, an infamously familiar aspect of American society, have been the subject of a surprisingly wide range of films.
Michael Moore’s documentary Bowling for Colombine (2002), was a treatise against American gun culture. Palme d’Or by Gus Van Sant the elephant (2003), took a radically mundane approach, describing the day of a school shooting as largely ordinary and uneventful. Until it doesn’t. that of Lynne Ramsay We need to talk about Kevin (2011) focused on the mother of a gunman, played by Tilda Swinton, who questions her parenthood and herself after her son commits an atrocity. Brady Corbet Vox Lux (2018), with Natalie Portman, takes a bird’s-eye view, showing how the sickening repetition of these massacres and their endless framing and cliché on American media have traumatized American youth.
With Lakewood, which premieres at the Toronto Film Festival on September 12, the focus is once again on the mother. Naomi Watts plays Amy Carr, a woman whose son is caught in a school shooting, though it’s not clear – not until the end of this tense thriller from Australian director Phillip Noyce (Anti-rabbit fence) – whether it is a victim or the shooter himself.
Noyce’s other drastic choice is to show no image of the violence itself. Instead, in an approach similar to content thrillers the guilty and Locke, Lakewood fully focuses on the character of Watts as she runs through the woods (she was doing her morning jog when she heard the news of the shooting) desperately trying to find out what happened and if her child is in security.
“We fully supported Phillip’s vision of not glorifying any aspect of violence or the shooter,” says Zack Schiller, one of the producers of Lakewood. “don’t take the easy or lazy approach but tell this story entirely from the point of view of Naomi’s character.”
The contained nature of the story was one of the main draws for Watts, who came to the project via Lakewood screenwriter Chris Sparling.
“I had worked with Chris on Sea of trees (2015), which he wrote and I knew he had written another movie, Buried (2010) with Ryan Reynolds, which was also a contained story, told from a person’s perspective, ”says Watts. “I thought it was an approach worth unpacking. Because I also live with the same terror and fear that most people have around this subject. “
Lakewood shot in northern Ontario, in 6 square miles of woodland near North Bay, about 4.5 hours north of Toronto. The isolated location and the relatively small team make it an ideal project to shoot during COVID.
“We were the first project to start production in North America under COVID and the first to complete,” says Schiller. We went in and out without anyone getting sick.
Instead of shooting short takes of each scene, Noyce had Watts copy her character’s experience, running full blast through the woods, gasping for breath as she tried to call the police, the school. and anyone who can help him.
“I had run and run in character and after 10 takes the physical emotion kicked in, I would experience that character,” says Watts. “I don’t think I could have done differently. I literally had to be on my guard because I was tripping in the woods, or we would lose cell service, the connection with the actors on the other side who were playing the live scenes with me.
The experiment took its toll on the two-time Oscar nominee.
“I have some experience in fitness and consider myself to be quite agile,” she said, “but I needed some training to bring my body back to a place where I could take so much running… Luckily, they had a physiotherapist on set who was an absolute genius woman. She was there on my body all the time, after the end of the day or even at lunch break. She is a marathon runner herself and we have her. said I must have run the equivalent of two marathons in those two weeks of production.
But, says Watts, it’ll be worth it if Lakewood, which is sold by UTA Independent Film Group, Endeavor Content and CAA Media Finance for the United States and by Mister Smith Entertainment internationally, may spark further discussion on the issue of gun violence.
“School shootings certainly weren’t part of how I grew up and it wasn’t a conversation I was aware of as a kid,” Watts says. “But the world has changed a lot since then, and it’s something we all fear now. That a place as innocent as a school can be so vulnerable is such a horrible thing. I’m not trying to be prescriptive about what should be done to help. It is not for me to decide the policies or to find the solutions. But I hope this film can help open the conversation.
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