Every once in a while, an extraordinary feature comes along that not only defies convention but leaves an indelible impression, and burrows itself into the recesses of your mind, refusing to let go. Joey Klein’s Castle in the Ground is such a film. It’s a searing character study, a relevant treatise on the opioid epidemic, a tale of grieving and loss, and a nail-biting thriller. Klein shoots for the stars, and while Castle in the Ground may not quite hold together from a narrative perspective, it’s so atmospheric, so acute in the small, tender moments it captures and is propelled by performances of such power, that it hardly matters.
“…he succumbs to spiraling down into oblivion…swiftly discovering a kindred spirit in Ana…”
Henry (Alex Wolff) takes care of his terminally ill mother, Rebecca (Neve Campbell), in a crummy Sudbury apartment. “You don’t have to worry about me baby, I’m gonna be just fine,” she tells him, but after the latest hospital visit, her face says otherwise. Henry’s neighbor, Ana (Imogen Poots), plays music loudly and has strange young men come and leave her place. He sees her throw a fit at the local pharmacy one day for being refused drugs. “They are profiling me,” she says, distraught and nonsensical. Henry is instantly enamored.
His mother passes. Paralyzed with grief and guilt, he takes her leftover OxyContin to alleviate the pain. When it’s not enough, he succumbs to spiraling down into oblivion, determinedly going next door and swiftly discovering a kindred spirit in Ana, perhaps even a twisted alter ego/placeholder for his mom. He gives her his drugs and his mother’s phone. He drives her to shady locations and meets her drug dealers, like the lanky Richard, aka Polo Boy (Keir Gilchrist), who’s in deep trouble. Polo Boy warns Henry about Ana: “She will sell your soul for something [gestures] this big.” Despite this, Henry resolutely and masochistically delves deeper into her world.
"…you won’t be able to take your eyes off Poots..."