Fantasia Film Festival 2021 Review: Martyrs Lane

  • Director: Ruth Platt
  • Writer: Ruth Platt
  • Stars: Denise Gough, Sienna Sayer, Kiera Thompson

Review

Unprocessed grief, childhood curiosity and family relationships all come together in the haunting and beautiful Martyrs Lane. Celebrating its world premiere at Fantasia Fest, writer/director Ruth Platt has crafted a heart-breaking ghost story that is bound to be put in the same category as The Orphanage and The Devil’s Backbone.

The daughter of a pastor, Leah is a quiet and observant young girl who lives in a house that is full of activity and people from the parish. She watches as her older sister and parents navigate the daily chaos while she tries to understand how to better communicate and learn about her mother Sarah. At such a young age, this desire to connect with her mom comes out in peculiar ways, one of which involves taking something from Sarah’s locket. The loss of this item sends Sarah into a tailspin and soon, the rest of the house with her. Simultaneously, a ghost begins to visit Leah every night. Looking like a cherub, this ghost claims to be an angel as she instigates a game with Leah: playing Two Truths and One Lie allows the two girls to get to know one another, have some fun and it also leads Leah on a scavenger hunt of sorts.

With each visit from her ghostly friend, Leah embarks on a treasure hunt that grows more dangerous with each item. The more items Leah finds, the stronger Sarah’s grief grows. Played by Denise Gough, Sarah is trying so very hard to keep her emotions tamped down, but they simply won’t stay silent any longer. Gough treats her role with the exact right amount of restraint, while remaining likable and sympathetic. There is a larger story at work in Leah’s home and she has no idea that her nightly play dates are bringing all of the family secrets to light.

Martyrs Lane is a truly gorgeous film on every level. The story unfolds in such a perfect way and Kiera Thompson as Leah does just as much emotional heavy lifting as Gough. Writer/director Ruth Platt expertly shows the world through the eyes of a child in a genuine, non-pandering, way. This is a ghost story that not only delivers on the supernatural front, but on the emotional one as well.

Played as part of Fantasia International Film Festival

Lisa Fremont

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