Kate (Beth Drover) is left badly beaten and traumatised following a violent assault by her partner. Desperate to get away from the life she knows so she can take time to heal, she takes a job as a fire lookout on a mountain. Expected to stay in her post, and report back at agreed times, Kate settles into her new life but soon struggles to tell the difference between reality and fiction. As her past haunts her, Kate tries to move on but she realises that you can’t out-run your demons unless you tackle them head on.
‘Outpost’ is the feature film directorial debut of Joe Lo Truglio, best-known for his scene-stealing performance in the much-loved sitcom ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’. A psychological thriller, ‘Outpost’ sets out to explore the weighty topics of domestic abuse and trauma, giving the audience a walk in Kate’s shoes as it does so. The set-up is executed solidly enough as we see Kate, battered and bruised, leaving her life behind to try and find some peace.
She naively thinks that relocating to the middle of nowhere is going to solve her problems but it’s not long before her trauma begins to surface. This is where Kate’s battle to understand reality and fiction begins, as she starts to see things that may or may not be happening, and she’s clearly not taken the necessary steps or support to deal with her problems. The outpost she’s assigned to becomes as much of a prison as it does a haven for her, and as time goes on Kate’s paranoia deepens to the point where there may be no return.
Given the subject matter, Lo Truglio has a difficult tightrope to walk with ‘Outpost’. As the sole writer on the film, he has to be able to really understand the position that a woman like Kate is in and while he does seem to grasp that initially, there are some interesting choices along the way that aren’t necessarily going to sit well with audiences. Perhaps the biggest issue with the story is that it’s not easy to understand what point Lo Truglio is trying to make. Is he saying that as the abused, Kate’s trauma is so much so that she can’t overcome it and therefore becomes an abuser? Or is he saying that Kate is fighting back against the patriarchy to reclaim her power?
Beth Dover is strong as the complex Kate and her performance is the main hook of the film. She’s surrounded by talent in the form of Dylan Baker, Dallas Roberts, Ato Essandoh and Becky Ann Baker, but none of those actors really get the chance to shine due to the under-developed nature of their characters. Lo Truglio puts all of his time into developing Kate, and Dover rises to the challenge, but the choices of the character don’t always make sense and it leaves the audience struggling to root for her.
‘Outpost’ had plenty of potential but sadly, for me, it didn’t fully realise it. What could have been a taut psychological thriller that makes comment on the impact of being assaulted by a partner, instead veers off the rails and never manages to recover. Lo Truglio packs the film with plenty of ideas but none of them come together for a satisfying pay off. Add to that the mixed messaging around the character of Kate and ‘Outpost’ is a bit of a disappointment.
Cast: Beth Dover, Dylan Baker, Dallas Roberts, Ato Essandoh, Becky Ann Baker Director: Joe Lo Truglio Writer: Joe Lo Truglio Certificate: 18 Duration: 84 mins Released by: What’s That Noise