TIFF 2023 Review: A Sea Change Comes to a Protected Island in Christian Sparkes’ “King Tide”

The village in “King Tide” hasn’t been touched by disease or misfortune in the decade since a young girl named Isla (Alix West Lefler) was rescued from a ship that washed up near the island shore, turned over and surely dooming the child to her death if it hadn’t been for the quick thinking of Bobby (Clayne Crawford), who pulled her out in the nick of time. One might think it’s karma that has led to the peaceful existence that followed, but director Christian Sparkes and screenwriter Albert Shim do away with that notion almost immediately in their fantastical parable in which Isla actually is imbued with special powers that has protected her community in the years since, with Bobby and her adoptive mother Grace (Lara Jean Chorostecki) obliged to let their neighbors into their home to be healed with her special powers.

Isla isn’t only a salve to the community in “King Tide,” but for the pain of Bobby and Grace in particular when they’ve had their issues trying to conceive, and The film ends up being a grim fairy tale of the first order – and certainly influenced by the German brothers who were the best at writing them in exposing the all-too-human failings exposed by a community that comes to covet the supernatural. Bobby and Grace attempt to do right by Isla in limiting visitation hours for their daughter when she starts to show signs of exhaustion from helping others all the time when it appears her powers start to fail here, with locals getting a cut here or a cough there, which have been unusual in these parts. Such trust has been placed in her that kids will play a game in which they’ll eat poisonous berries, expecting to be revived in time, but when Isla can’t be found, tragedy strikes and the community convenes to make decisions for a child who holds all the power over them but none when it comes to agency for herself.

It’s unlikely everyone will buy into the slightly magical premise of “The King Tide,” but Sparkes creates a convincing world after establishing the extraordinary situation at hand, watching as the locals, including Grace’s own mother (Frances Fisher), push back against the limitations placed on seeing Isla out of their own selfishness and the stress placed on Bobby, especially, having to handle the responsibilities to his daughter and the town that he serves as the mayor of. Part of the community’s safety has come from keeping Isla’s identity a secret to the outside world and largely staying within their own borders, and worst than mounting physical health concerns, Sparkes and Shim illuminate the even more corrosive sense of distrust and fear that emerges from creating such distance and one has to wonder as Bobby and Grace have to consider moving Isla somewhere that’s better for her, if the greater good in fact is the welfare of the single child over the well-being of the collective once they’ve put their needs over her own. “The King Tide” doesn’t shrink away from the questions it raises, uncompromising in its finale where at least a little more compromise on the part of its characters could’ve gone a long way.

“The King Tide” will screen again at the Toronto Film Festival on September 13th at 2:50 pm at the Scotiabank 4.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.