TIFF movie review: 'King Tide' a compelling parable for our time

"The King Tide" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of VVS Films
1 of 5 | "The King Tide" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of VVS Films

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- The King Tide, which premiered Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival, is a poignant parable that is especially pertinent today. A fantastic phenomenon reveals human behavior that is unfortunately relevant, with or without magic.

On an isolated island, Bobby (Clayne Crawford) rescues an infant from a boat wreck. Bobby and his wife, Grace (Lara Jean Chorostecki), then raise the girl, Isla (Alix West Lefler).


Isla presents powers to heal island residents from injuries and illnesses and help their crops prosper. She's seen as a blessing until the residents become overly possessive of her.

Isla eventually loses her powers. When Bobby suggests giving Isla a break, like any reasonable parent would, the town overrules him and the situation escalates from there.

Isla's powers are a magical macguffin that requires no special effects to portray. People just get better and the island prospers.


The reaction of Bobby and Isla's neighbors reveal the dark side of human nature. It would be relevant in any era, but the last few years have brought into focus how quickly people can prioritize their own wants over social needs.

So, the islanders create more problems and don't realize their stubbornness and meddling ensures they will lose Isla. Their dependence on her leads to desperation.

There's also the proverb "If you love something, set it free," which Sting extrapolated to "somebody" in a song. Being possessive about another person, let alone a child, never ends well.

Plus, Isla is at the age at which she starts to ask questions. Adults can't control her forever, but shouldn't try, regardless.

Crawford is righteous in his portrayal of a concerned father. Even Chorostecki portrays a conflicted mother who would consider selling out her own daughter for the greater good.

Grace doesn't want to just leave the island as Bobby suggests. She's confident everything will return to normal if they just cooperate for now. Clinging to "normal" sounds very familiar, and oblivious to the nature of their neighbors' demands.

As Grace's mother, Faye, Frances Fisher portrays someone with the sort of entitlement that presents itself as a friendly face. She's Isla's grandmother and, of course, loves Isla, but she thinks it's not fair that the grown-ups can't access her powers whenever they want.


The ensemble cast includes Aden Young, Michael Greyeyes, Kathryn Greenwood, Ryan McDonald, Ben Stranahan and Amelia Manuel, each of whom portrays varying degrees of desire and misgivings about using Isla.

Cameron James Niccol plays another child on the island who feels protective of Isla, but struggles with protecting her from adults.

The King Tide takes deliberate time escalating the situation. It is a slow burn, but then so is life, usually, although life has changed much more rapidly than usual recently.

Look for news of distribution out of Toronto. When viewers everywhere get a chance to see this movie, it hopefully will spark discussions.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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