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RIVER (#TIFF15 Review)


Written and Directed by Jamie M. Dagg / Starring Rossif Sutherland, Douangmany Soliphanh and Sara Botsford

John Lake: I didn’t do what they’re saying!

John Lake (played by Rossif Sutherland of the television series Reign) is an American volunteer doctor working in Laos. Passionate to a fault, he’s asked by his superior, Dr. Stephanie Novella (Sara Botsford, THE FOG) to take a bit of a break when things get out of control in the O.R. one day. So he heads to a riverside village and spends the evening alone in a bar, watching suspiciously as a couple of American men try to charm two local young women.

The night continues rather uneventfully, apart from one awkward confrontation when the girls are being plied with what Lake considers excessive amounts of alcohol. But although he initially walks away from an all-out fight, the situation is far from over. On his way home, having had a substantial amount to drink himself, Lake discovers something much more chilling – one of the girls is tied up on the beach and in obvious imminent danger from her drunken and violent captor. Lake intervenes to stop the assault but what happens next is a blur, and when he gets back to his apartment covered in blood, he begins to wonder what just happened on that beach.


Things do not bode well for the young doctor when he awakens the next morning to find a sudden influx of police presence and officers looking to interrogate anyone who may have been at the bar the previous night. Terrified, Lake decides to run.

RIVER is an impressive effort from newcomer, writer and director Jamie M. Dagg, and is a great showcase for Sutherland’s talent. More than anything, the film is a character-driven thriller as its central character is a good man forced to run from the law when his honourable intentions cause a bad situation to spiral out of control. You’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next or where Lake’s moral compass will guide him. But it’s got enough of a hook to keep you along for the ride.

3.5 sheep

RIVER screens at TIFF15 as part of the Discovery program. This is the screening schedule:

Tuesday, September 15, 7:45 PM, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.

Wednesday, September 16, 6:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre 4

For more information and for tickets, please visit

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