The Harvest (2013)

The-Harvest---poster,-Michael-ShannonDirector: John McNaughton

Writer: Stephen Lancellotti

Cast: Samantha Morton, Michael Shannon, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan, Peter Fonda

Cert: 15 (TBC)

Running time: 104mins

Year: 2013

UK Title: Can’t Come Out To Play

 

 

The lowdown: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Wild Things director John McNaughton changes pace for his first film in 13 years. A sensitively handled account of one particularly screwed-up family, The Harvest channels fairytale myths for an unusual story of friendship, betrayal and psychological damage. Samantha Morton delivers a career highlight as a worryingly over-protective mother.

The Harvest - Natasha Calis, Charlie TahanThe Harvest - Samantha Morton

The full verdict: John McNaughton made his name with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, a chilling look at an all-too-human monster.

He repeats that success with The Harvest, a riveting drama with a standout performance from Samantha Morton as Dr. Katherine Young.

Possessed with a God complex, she home schools and home treats her son Andy (Tahan), a twelve year old boy with an undisclosed wasting disease that leaves him bedridden or wheelchair bound.

Katherine is unable to resist belittling her husband Richard (Shannon), who scores illegal drugs for their son’s treatment and tolerates his wife’s scorn that he was a lowly nurse before becoming Andy’s full-time carer.

Their quietly dysfunctional home life is upset when Maryann (Calis), an orphaned girl recently moved in with her grandparents, happens past Andy’s window and a friendship blossoms.

Sensing threat, Katherine will do whatever it takes to protect the family set-up and the control over her son. But, why?

The Harvest- Michael Shannon, Charlie TahanThe Harvest - Samantha Morton, Charlie Tahan

Working from Stephen Lancellotti’s intelligent, literate script, McNaughton directs with a deftness that allows his note-perfect cast to unveil their characters and the story its many surprises.

A film where family dinner scenes are laced with dread and a child’s game of catch becomes a race against time when mother comes home early, The Harvest draws comparisons with Let the Right One In and Misery.

And, while there is clearly mystery here, a midway twist adds a whole new dimension of heartbreak and horror.

Although set in present day, McNaughton gives the film an 80s feel with non-specific fashions and an autumnal melancholy reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone.

Imperilled children, one an orphan, weak fathers and domineering mothers are the stuff of Grimm fairytales, given a naturalistic richness through a roster of fantastic performances (including Peter Fonda in a kindly woodcutter role as Maryann’s granddad).

Uncompromising and tender, disturbing and uplifting, The Harvest is a genuine surprise.

Rob Daniel