As the world struggles under this catastrophic pandemic, it seems prudent to remind us of another epidemic currently ravaging North America: the opioid epidemic. Consequently, Joey Klein’s timely Castle in the Ground depicts a band of young people struggling with addiction amid the trauma of their personal lives. While dramatically powerful and compellingly acted, the film has surprisingly little to say about the structural issues surrounding addiction and mental illness.
After his mother’s death and a painful breakup, Henry (Hereditary’s Alex Wolff) befriends his neighbour, Ana (Vivarium’s Imogen Poots), an opioid addict, and quickly becomes subsumed into a world characterized by drugs, crime, and death.
Castle in the Ground boasts a stellar cast and some terrific performances, especially from an unrecognizable Neve Campbell as Henry’s ailing mother. Klein’s thinly-written script, however, gives them superficial characterization to work with. The screenplay understands addiction only on a surface level, without truly addressing the confluence of political, social, and economic factors that have shaped the opioid epidemic. Indeed, the film seems to argue that addiction is a personal failing, rather than a result of structural problems in the health care and pharmaceutical industries (a particularly frustrating scene in which Ana is unable to receive her prescription seems to suggest that these two industries have not played an active role in creating this issue).
Though the film fails as a serious study of addiction, the film is tautly directed by Klein. Compensating for the film’s lack of explicit political discourse, Klein effectively aestheticizes addiction, particularly articulated through the film’s muted colours and trashy settings.
Few will find the film’s content suitable given our current global crisis, though the film will surely find an audience given its powerful performances and strong aesthetic sensibilities.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile