It is A-Level results day for a group of friends living in the North East of England. Some of them get the results they wanted, some not. With the group soon to be split up as they head off to different universities, they decide to catch an overnight coach to a nearby festival, but are thrown off in the middle of nowhere after making too much noise. They find themselves somehow stranded on a tidal island and so have to pitch their tents and light a fire, until the tide will allow them to walk back to the mainland. But Izzy, the most recent addition to the group, has been followed by someone from her past and suddenly, members of the group start to go missing.


Rising Tide is an ultra-low budget independent film, the product of work-shopping and improvisation with a cast of young actors, under the supervision of writers/producers/directors Dawn Furness and Philip Shotton. With the exception of the opening scenes of students receiving exam results, adjourning to a pub and larking about on a coach, the entirety of the rest of the film takes place on Northumberland’s Holy Island. It is a location that turns out to be a real coup for the film-makers, proving alternately bleak and beautiful when required. Frequent time-lapse photography of clouds gathering, the tide rising and abating and the sun arcing across the sky convey a sense of the beauty of their surroundings, but also introduce a welcome sense of danger and portent as the realisation that the group are not alone slowly dawns on them.

No lesser a pair of champions than Lord Puttnam and Timothy Spall have praised the film and rightly so, for at its best it is atmospheric, ambiguous, engaging and affecting. The cinematography, while at times betraying its budgetary constraints, makes up for that disadvantage by being imaginative, evocative and pleasingly lacking in self-consciousness. The young cast acquit themselves well and although they lack a certain amount of range, that is attributable to their relative inexperience and should not count against them. At times they struggle to convincingly convey emotion during the scenes requiring genuine heavy lifting and some of the characterisation is pretty thin, but they come across as scared, exasperated, annoyed, petulant and frustrated when it is needed.

The script bears all the hallmarks of having been work-shopped, with a few clunking lines having been allowed to slip through the net. But for the most part these friends speak and relate much like a group of mates in their late teens would, even if there is the occasional segue into out of character behaviour for the sake of plot progression.

The commendably brief running time ensures that the film does not out-stay its welcome, nor does it try to wrap everything up or wholly explain what has transpired. In some ways that is a negative, as one person’s ambiguity is another’s lack of proper through-plot or narrative coherence. It is not entirely clear how they get from a road that is on a bus route to a cut off tidal island, it is not entirely clear why or how a person from Izzy’s past has caught up with her, it is not entirely clear whether that person is a ghost, a loon or a figment of someone’s imagination and it is not entirely clear why a group of people with no apparent access to food or fresh water do not seem to struggle after the first day or so. Having said all of that, a certain lack of narrative robustness can be forgiven when accepting this film on its own terms. There is a certain free-form experimentation going on here and it is possible to enjoy the film in that way, admiring its qualities and excusing its shortcomings.

Although it is not a film without its flaws, it has much to commend it and certainly the cast and crew should be roundly applauded for what they have achieved on such apparently limited resources. Whether Shotton and Furness will be able to progress from this impressive starting point remains to be seen, but one would hope so, for there are flashes of real talent here.

Catching this film might be a tricky one. The producers/distributors (Northern Film & Media) say the film may be uploaded to Vodo for downloading/streaming, but there is no sign of it yet. Nor is it yet available on LoveFilm, though that may change in due course. In the meantime, you can enjoy the trailer and some footage from a cinema screening below.


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Dave has been writing for HeyUGuys since mid-2010 and has found them to be the most intelligent, friendly, erudite and insightful bunch of film fans you could hope to work with. He's gone from ham-fisted attempts at writing the news to interviewing Lawrence Bender, Renny Harlin and Julian Glover, to writing articles about things he loves that people have actually read. He has fairly broad tastes as far as films are concerned, though given the choice he's likely to go for Con Air over Battleship Potemkin most days. He's pretty sure that 2001: A Space Odyssey is the most overrated mess in cinematic history.