Rating: C+/ If a strange man shows up in your house with a gunshot wound and a half-baked story, trust him unreservedly. He couldn’t possibly be a serial killer or a rapist, could he?
I don’t care what anybody says, Tim Roth makes any movie about 100% times better. His loquacious villain makes this movie, well, watchable. Patricia Clarkson is a wonderful actress, but even she can’t save October Gale from the gutter. Here she plays Helen, a recent widow who goes to her summer home for the first time after the death of her husband (played in flashbacks by Callum Keith Rennie.)
Obviously, since it’s October, practically nobody is out there vacationing, and during an intense autumn storm (the ‘gale’ of the title,) and she finds one night that a bleeding young man (Scott Speedman) has broken into her house. Being an accomplished doctor, she stitches up his injury, which just happens to have been made by a bullet, and despite his story, which is full of holes, and the extremely strange circumstances, Helen and the young man, whose name is Will, find each themselves falling for each other almost immediately. Amid all this speedy bonding, Tom (Tim Roth) comes looking for Will, who, as it turns out, killed Tom’s son in what appears to be a bar fight.
Herein lies the real problem of the movie; once Tom tells Helen his side of the story (admittedly one of the best ‘killer talks’ scenes I’ve seen in a long time, thanks to Roth’s dark, unhinged intensity,) you’re fully unsure of who to believe, Will or Tom. Both seem to be unreliable sources, and both seem to have their share of bats in the attic. But the film immediately ignores the very questions it presents by focusing on the romantic elements of the story. And for a supposedly strong, intelligent, and assertive woman like Helen, it’s hard to believe how quickly she puts all her trust in Will. Why? Because, apparently. And Will happens to have a smoking hot bod when she’s bandaging up the bullet Tom put in him. Anybody with that good a bod must have basically good intentions, right?
The actors do their best to elevate October Gale beyond strict ho-hem territory, but the inadequacies of the script keep dragging them down. The story is simply unbelievable, as is the rapid progression of the relationship between these two disparate souls. The message of this movie seems to be that even if an uninvited guest gives you every reason to take pause and question his intentions, if he’s young, white, and good-looking, he’s got to be completely trustworthy. It’s really hard to give a damn about any of the characters in this story, and the films ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. Pity. There were definitely moments here that shone, but they just didn’t add up to a cohesive whole.