Life is precious, but it's also unpredictable. We may have a plan when we wake up in the morning, but something shifts, and it changes in the blink of an eye. In Lakewood, Phillip Noyce and Chris Sparling demonstrate the unpredictability of life, and Naomi Watts gives an anxiety-ridden, intense performance as a fierce mother attempting to get to her son.
Amy Carr (Naomi Watts) had no intention of taking a personal day. However, on the anniversary of her husband's death, the woman decides to take the day off and go for a run. As she jogs, she makes numerous phone calls to parents, friends, and boss. However, everything quickly turns to dust as the code red alert flashes on her phone's screen: there is an active shooter inside her son's high school. The race against time begins when Amy desperately tries to reach her son, Noah (Colton Gobbo), and save him. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it appears because the woman is a few miles away from home and doesn’t have a car.
It's not easy to make a film about a school shooting. To carefully execute such a film, one should proceed with caution and subtlety. Lakewood's creators take care to proceed sensitively and deliver a portrayal of a desperate mother who will do anything to get to her son as soon as possible. Amy runs through the woods, far from the city, with obstacles thrown in her way constantly. At the same time, she answers phones from teachers, other parents, and even the police, trying to find out anything she can. Her despair is visible in every facial expression and the timbre of her voice.
One aspect of Lakewood that may entice and overshadow the film's flaws is the constant guessing. Who is the assailant? Who are the victims? Is Noah all right? Why is his phone turned off? The director constantly keeps us guessing and leads us down unexpected and frightening paths. The film could have gone in the wrong direction, but instead, it's executed just right.
Despite some obvious flaws, such as strange music choices in certain scenes or overly dramatic music accompanying Amy as she runs through the woods, Naomi Watts saves the film with her incredible acting. Her character is tenacious, and she refuses to give up. She could easily succumb to the distressing emotions that sometimes arise when talking on the phone with others, but she doesn’t. The creators depict the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness in similar situations, particularly being a parent, through her character of a terrified but tenacious mother. This feeling accompanies the viewer until the very emotional third act and finale. The subject hits close to home and it’s even more terrifying as school shootings are a very real problem that the United States experiences.
Lakewood may be an imperfect film, but it maintains a high level of tension from start to finish, causing the audience to keep their eyes fixed on the television. Then, just when we think it's predictable, it deviates from the path it's on and surprises us with new information.
Colton Gobbo, who plays Noah, deserves to be praised alongside Naomi Watts, who gives an exhilarating and emotional performance. Although the young actor doesn't appear in the thriller very often, he does a fantastic job when he does.
Lakewood touches on the topics of life's unpredictability and how precious it is. At the same time, the emotional film hits close to home with its subject of the school shootings. Although it stumbles at times, it's a solid film with Naomi Watt's great performance.
Movie Score: 4/5