As a child, Jimmy was always fascinated with the snow geese that congregate across the dangerously frozen lake. When his over-protective father, Walter (Roddy Piper), forbids Jimmy’s Mom (CindyMarie Small) from taking Jimmy to see them, Jimmy sneaks out one night to make the trek anyway. When Walter and Mom find Jimmy missing, they head out into a snowstorm to find him, resulting in a car wreck that leaves Mom dead and Walter paralyzed from the waist down.
Twenty years later, and Jimmy (Daryl Dorge) is living alone with Walter, taking care of his father while everyone else his age has either moved on and out of town, or gotten on with their lives. Stuck in a state of almost perpetual childhood, Jimmy still pines for crossing the lake and, when he is reunited with his old childhood friends Pete (Leonard Waldner) and Jenny (Sarah Murphy-Dyson), Jimmy puts a new plan into action.
Mick Paulusma’s Clear Lake is an earnest and sentimental film that wears its heart firmly on its sleeve. Anyone with an ounce of cynicism could easily have a field day picking on this one, but I think the film’s commitment to its sentiment is part of its charm.
As I mentioned above, Jimmy is stuck in his childhood; the death of his mother seemingly freezing him to that point in time. So much so, that his mannerisms and behavior are often child-like. When he gets upset, it’s not unlike a child’s tantrum. When he gets excited, it’s wide-eyed wonder. His innocence is only matched by his obsession with seeing the snow geese.
To Dorge’s credit, he commits to that portrayal of Jimmy, opening himself up to the risks that acting choice invites (again, the cynical could ridicule the performance easily). Piper’s Walter is an appropriately dramatic turn for the former pro wrestler, and he handles the role well (though in a few moments, the more manic Roddy Piper we all know and love peeks out). Waldner and Murphy-Dyson fill the remaining leads with strong performances, with the latter, her character a ballerina, having a beautiful dance sequence near the finish.
In the end, Clear Lake is not going to be for everyone. It definitely leans into melodrama at times, which can be hard to take. Overall, though, if you like your dramas sentimental, and your narratives more than a little obvious, this one could be worth your time. I don’t think it should be punished for having, and showing, heart, but the sweetness was a bit much for my tastes.
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