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1851, Manitoba's Red River Valley. As winter sets in, a young woman on the edge of madness arrives exhausted at the fort, a wilderness station, claiming she murdered her husband. She's placed in a cell; for the next several months, she sews while the local prefect, Henry Mullen, investigates. In flashbacks we see her arranged marriage to the hard-working but angry Simon, who takes her to his half-built homestead and abuses her. She's treated well by his younger brother George, with whom she laughs, but he's too weak to protect her. Is she guilty? At the homestead, Mullen hears a different story, one that exonerates Annie. Can he unearth the truth? Then what? Written by
I very much enjoyed Caroline Dhavernas' performance in the failed series Wonderfalls, so I thought I would purchase the Edge of Madness DVD, and view some of her other work. Besides Wonderfalls, I had only previously seen her in the comedy Out Cold, and wanted to see her in a serious work. However, I was ultimately disappointed by the film, and would not recommend it.
Firstly, as I knew some background on Caroline Dhavernas, and her character was of French background in the film, I assumed the film took place somewhere in Canada. However, the film never makes this clear, and simply announces the location as "Red River Valley." Any Canadian worth their salt might know that this is located in the province of Manitoba, but as an American, I was not familiar with it, and would have preferred greater clarity, e.g. "Red River Valley, Manitoba." I suppose the film's producers never expected many people outside of Canada to take interest in the film, and didn't feel they needed to clarify, which seems somewhat unprofessional.
At any rate, the film starts promisingly, and it seems the viewer is in for a good mystery. However, throughout the entire film, we're fed large blocks of Caroline Dhavernas' character's flashbacks. A truly compelling mystery leaves the viewer in the dark until the very end. However, this film keeps its viewers remarkably well-informed from beginning to end, making the final details of the story less-than-shocking. When the audience knows more than the film's investigating constable the entire time, it's difficult to even classify this film as a mystery.
A further hindrance to the enjoyment of the film was the extraordinarily thick Scottish accents two of the main characters have. I found myself frequently having to rewind the film, and even activate the English subtitles, just to get key pieces of dialogue in the movie. At some points, I even let the muddled lines go, too frustrated to rewind. There's a fine line between authentic and unintelligible, and if being the first means being the latter, I feel that it's okay to sacrifice a little sliver of authenticity for the sake of the viewer's comprehension. Fortunately, Ms. Dhavernas' French accent and the standard North American accents of the rest of the cast came through loud and clear.
The ending was quite muddled, leaving me without much of a sense of closure, justice or satisfaction. It left me wondering if the characters had really grown or learnt anything throughout the entire film, and if it really did justice to the film's themes. Also, the characters' relationships really weren't well-developed in my opinion, and needed more depth.
All this being said, the film's acting was excellent. Caroline Dhavernas did her best with a bad script, and her performance was quite moving and mature. Brendan Fehr, of the canceled series Roswell, proves that he can also handle a serious role, and the rest of the cast does adequate work. However, even such superb acting cannot salvage an inherently ill-conceived script.
In conclusion, Edge of Madness is an intelligent, well-acted film, but written and formatted poorly, and often confusing. If you're a die-hard Caroline Dhavernas fan, rent it just for the heck of it, but if not, don't waste your money on a purchase or even a rental. It's a waste of your time and a waste of good talent.
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