Meeting Step-Mom – The Lodge

Chipping away at indie films from the beginning of the year, from the comfort of my couch, has been an interesting experience. The home theater experience is nice but can’t replicate my love for going to the movies. However, the price point is pretty nice and I’m grateful to have access to films I otherwise would have missed. While The Lodge manages to look the part, it lacks the depth to bring it all together. 

The general setup is pretty simple but it works enough to get the ball rolling. There are a few important wrinkles but a young woman is given the opportunity to bond with her soon-to-be husband’s kids over Christmas at an isolated cabin in the woods. Naturally, some weird stuff starts going down and there are certainly some creepy environmental and situational horror elements at play but it actually leans heavily into the psychological thriller genre and ultimately falls flat down the stretch.

Sadly, the script from directors Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala (“Goodnight Mommy”), along with Sergio Casci, is seriously lacking in character design and development. As a result, you don’t buy into the characters’ motivations and don’t care enough about the resolution of their journey by the time the film’s climax rolls around. It’s tough to care about or invest in the characters when the writers can’t even clearly define that or why they care about one another. The twist is actually pretty good and there’s plenty of tension and fear but there’s just so much foundation missing, you never get the answers you need to complete the loop. Somehow, Script Supervisor Elizabeth Tremblay and Script Coordinator Rick Cranford didn’t seem to notice any of the glaring character issues either. 

Riley Keough plays the lead (or at least gets top billing) as Grace, the potential new step-mom. he has a very complicated past and while she’s decent enough in the role, there’s no good explanation for why the character is in the story except to be the catalyst. Richard Armitage plays the dad but he and Keough have zero chemistry, which only raises more questions about why he brings her into his family’s life. The relationship with his ex-wife, played by Alicia Silverstone, isn’t fleshed out either. She’s good but only serves to set the table for the new woman, which does a disservice to the whole dynamic with the kids. There are several “whys?” that are only addressed with very general broad strokes between these characters and the film suffers for it.

The Lodge | Newport Beach Film Festival

 Jaeden Martell (“IT”) and his on-screen sister Lia McHugh carry the movie. They are the ones in the eye of the storm as their dad attempts to force a mysterious stranger into their lives. Again, the motivation for this is very weak but the kids respond as you’d hope, telling dad to fuck off. As minors, they’re dragged along for the ride but end up getting behind the wheel.

It looks pretty good on the screen thanks to the production design by Sylvain Lemaitre and cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis. The totality of the environment goes a long way in pushing the narrative but I was left wanting quite a bit more from it. 

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