As a lover of film and television, I sometimes learn about the happenings in the world through those forms of entertainment as I’m a bit of an introvert. I don’t like being around people much and would rather spend forty bucks on a Blu-ray and food on a Friday night. However, that has made me a bit of a recluse and ignorant to some things going on. Due to this hermit lifestyle, I’m becoming more aware of what is commonly referred to as the opioid crisis. While familiar with what opioids actually are, I never realized how big of an issue they really are. Network television has even approached the topic, utilizing it as a device to kill Roseanne Barr off her own show which led to the origins of the spinoff sitcom, The Connors. That said, CASTLE IN THE GROUND is the latest film to focus on the opioid crisis and is an anxiety-driven drama that doesn’t shy away from parasitic behaviors.
Henry (Alex Wolff, Hereditary) is done with high school but now spends his time taking care of his ailing mother (Neve Campbell, Scream). His routine revolves around her and it’s clear he has yet to live the kind of life most people his age like to celebrate. While getting her medications, Henry peeks through the front door to see what kind of visitors his nosy neighbor across the hall has. This neighbor, Ana (Imogen Poots, Green Room) is an addict, unable to hide her desperation at the local pharmacy or when she asks Henry for seemingly small favors despite not having any sort of friendship with him.
After a not so sudden loss, Henry leaves behind his apprehensions and gets himself involved in Ana’s life. As it turns out, her routine consists of borrowing Henry’s phone and leaving voicemails for her unreliable associates, including her mother. She makes attempts to bribe prescriptions out of her doctor and stops at shady locations for questionable purposes. Henry takes some of his mother’s medication and experiences the drug-induced ride that is Ana’s environment. While Ana continues to manipulate those around her, she does give Henry someone else to care for while she’s indulging in reckless moments. While the story gets a kick from a theft subplot, it stays in the background, merely adding some dry meat to a rather stale meal.
CASTLE IN THE GROUND starts off engaging, especially with an addicting performance from Poots. She truly gets it and she makes it easy to see how one can fall for her games. Ana is the definition of a snake, one who slithers under your skin until she bleeds you dry. Yet, you can’t help but stare at the train wreck that is her life. However, it gets repetitive halfway through as nothing progresses and you realize there’s not much direction here.
With that being said, this is still a promising effort from writer/director Joey Klein. He previously gave us a dramatic turn with Tatiana Maslany in The Other Half and here helps draw out the realities of addiction. It’s not always some hazy hallucination or cartoons coming to life, but can also be a version of a sad existence.
CASTLE IN THE GROUND is very grim but works in providing an experience that is still all too common. It ends with a sudden jolt, but maybe there’s something we missed or even that the film missed that could have helped us comprehend why. CASTLE IN THE GROUND will be available On Demand May 15, 2020.