Of course, io9 wants you to read this review, but Overflowing swimming pool—the latest from Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral, Possessor)– is one of those movies you shouldn’t know too much about until you watch it. No spoilers here, but if you want to go in totally blind, you’ve been warned.
Set on a fictional island (Croatia provides the beautifully scenic backdrops) in an exclusive resort, Overflowing swimming pool introduces us to James (The man from the northby Alexander Skarsgård) and Em (In the shadow of the moon‘s Cleopatra Coleman), who have been married for 10 years and it shows. Em, a publishing heiress, is funding this getaway – as well as James’ whole lifestyle, it seems, since he’s an author with just one unsuccessful book to his name, and a case of blocking the writer preventing him from producing any type of sequel-up. The polite tension between them hasn’t softened despite their glamorous surroundings.
But Overflowing swimming pool is not a simple story of marital drama. Right off the bat, the oddly rotating camerawork and eerie music telegraph that something very dark is coming, and the film doesn’t drag its feet to get to its first twist – which is mentioned with careful vagueness in its summary for e2023 Sundance Film Festival, where the film premiered, but we won’t detail it here. Although James and Em have been specifically told, like all resort guests, not to leave the property, they impulsively decide to visit a beach in another part of the island with a couple they just met: Gabi (Mia Goth from pearl and X), a flirtatious actress specializing in “natural failure” in television commercials, and her architect partner, Alban (Jalil Lespert).
From the beginning, Overflowing swimming pool creeps in references to “locals” who, taken with unsettling elements like this warning not to stray far from the station, which has a barbed wire barrier containing its borders, and the grotesque ceremonial masks used to celebrate the season of the region’s rains (available to buy from the gift shop!) – may make you think you know where all this is heading. Obviously, there is something about this island that tourists need to be protected from. But Overflowing swimming pool pulls the rug over and over, down a trippy rabbit hole (people with strobe aversions, be warned) that’s horrifically violent and always shocking, with a very clever plot that backs it all up.
In his career so far, Skarsgård has shown a knack for playing characters that use both and flip his good looks, and it’s instantly one of his best performances. Goth had a huge year in 2022 with X and pearl—the third film in his series with Ti West, MaXXXineis due to arrive later this year—and Overflowing swimming pool will only serve to elevate it further.
If you’ve made it this far, don’t read anything else on Overflowing swimming pool before seeing it! Fortunately, you will have your chance very soon: it will be released in theaters on January 27th.
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