REVIEW: Little Bone Lodge (2023)

dir. Matthias Hoene

Deep in the Scottish Highlands, Mama (Joely Richardson) seems to lead an idyllic – if secluded – existence, spending her days tending to her farm, teenage daughter (Sadie Soverall) and disabled husband (Roger Ajogbe). However when two strangers arrive in the middle of a storm, the question about who is more dangerous – her or them – starts to come into focus.

The fact that there may be dark recesses behind Mama’s old-world matriarchy is sign-posted early on – from a bone handled knife, to the odd intensity with which she tends to her husbands medical needs – but Richardson wraps these red flags with a genuine glow of motherly warmth, simultaneously reassuring and hinting that those who get on her wrong side will have hell to pay.

At the same time the two unexpected guests – brothers Jack (Neil Linpow) and Matty (Harry Cadby) – are clearly also concealing hidden layers. Jack’s been badly injured, apparently in a car crash, but the nature of their journey – and the past they’re fleeing from – immediately sets off alarm bells.

In this director Hoene – perhaps best known for 2012’s Cockneys vs Zombies – excels, as does Linpow’s script which skilfully leans against audience expectations: you might have clocked that both Mama and the brothers have shadows in their character, but the exact nature of these – and how deep that darkness goes – still manages to plumb some shocking depths.

Ultimately as the intrigue unfolds what emerges is a delicate examination on the nature of family – both biological and found – and a pitch black seam of vengeance demanded from those who hurt our loved ones. The result is a heady mix of home invasion, Scandi-crime flick and Hicksploitation: a grindhouse Scottish stew best served cold.

© Tim Coleman


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