Undertow

Critics Consensus

Undertow's gently fantastical elements are balanced by fully realized characters and a story with genuine, steadily accumulating emotional weight.

55%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 120

62%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,298
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Movie Info

Chris (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot) is a volatile teen who lives with his father, John (Dermot Mulroney), and his little brother, Tim (Devon Alan). After the death of Chris' mother, his reclusive father moved the family to a shack in backwoods Georgia, where they raise hogs. Tim has an unusual eating disorder. He is constantly making himself sick by eating things like dirt and paint. One day, John's estranged brother, Deel (Josh Lucas), gets out of prison and shows up on the farm. John is less than thrilled to see him, but agrees to let him stay with the family as long as Deel helps him look after his boys. Chris is drawn to his wild-man uncle, but it soon becomes clear that Deel has more on his mind than a family reunion. Greed and years of resentment lead to violence, and Chris finds himself on the run, towing his sickly brother along, with Deel in pursuit. Undertow is writer/director David Gordon Green's third feature film, and features many of the same crew as his previous films, George Washington and All the Real Girls, including cinematographer Tim Orr. Green, who co-wrote the script with Joe Conway, has cited the influence of filmmaker Terrence Malick, who is credited as a producer. Green was also influenced by low-budget regional films of the 1970s (like Macon County Line and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and by Charles Laughton's classic The Night of the Hunter. Undertow was selected by the Film Society of Lincoln Center for inclusion in the 2004 New York Film Festival.

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News & Interviews for Undertow

Critic Reviews for Undertow

All Critics (120) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (66) | Rotten (54)

  • A deep-fried piece of Southern Gothic that wears its unpleasantness like a merit badge...

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Scott Foundas

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Green's signature pastoral tangents and codeine pacing don't slow down this tale of two boys fleeing their psychotic uncle so much as inappropriately slacken any of the story's suspenseful aspects.

    Aug 16, 2007

    Ben Walters

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • A front-loaded film, sure, but what a front.

    Jun 21, 2005 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Jamie Woolley

    BBC.com
    Top Critic
  • Green's characters often find themselves in raw, unprotected moments, but Undertow also can feel a little too mesmerized by its own junkyard visions.

    Dec 10, 2004 | Rating: C
  • The film's first half is hypnotically watchable.

    Dec 9, 2004 | Rating: B-
  • Green is all surface and no depth in his effort to channel the late novelist William Faulkner.

    Nov 19, 2004 | Rating: 2/5

Audience Reviews for Undertow

  • Oct 09, 2012
    For those who have seen "The Night Of The Hunter" "Undertow" pays homage to the former film. This film is a masterpiece. From the editing, the direction, the cinematography, the plot, to the poor rural landscapes of the south, "Undertow" all comes down to a shocking climax. The plot: Chris (Jamie Bell) is a volatile teen who lives with his father, John (Dermot Mulroney), and his little brother, Tim (Devon Alan). After the death of Chris' mother, his reclusive father moved the family to a shack in backwoods Georgia, where they raise hogs. Tim has an unusual eating disorder. He is constantly making himself sick by eating things like dirt and paint. One day, John's estranged brother, Deel (Josh Lucas), gets out of prison and shows up on the farm. John is less than thrilled to see him, but agrees to let him stay with the family as long as Deel helps him look after his boys. Chris is drawn to his wild-man uncle, but it soon becomes clear that Deel has more on his mind than a family reunion. Greed and years of resentment lead to violence, and Chris finds himself on the run, towing his sickly brother along, with Deel in pursuit. As I was watching this film I noticed the director David Gordon Green was going down the paths of raw bitter human emotions. As things began to be darker and darker, the characters is in conflict with a dangerous man (who happens to be their uncle or real father?) on the loose. I cringed each time I witness Josh Lucas as Deel who kinda reminded me of Kevin Costner in Clint Eastwood's "A Perfect World". His performance I felt was the best and the most frightening. I also seemed to cared for the two brothers Chris and Tim and the problmatic situations those two were up against. "Undertow" is a great film and a film I could watch countless times. David Gordon Green is starting to mold himself into a serious filmmaker.
    Brian R Super Reviewer
  • Aug 22, 2010
    Its a slow, dreamlike thriller that's brilliantly executed by David Gordon Green. The ambiguity of the ending is rather marvelous as well and Philip Glass produced a great score for the film.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 15, 2009
    A bit too full of mannerisms and some lazy editing towards the end, but the story stays strong and the performances are great. The "Night of the Hunter" mood does the rest.
    Rhady N Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2009
    Good film & the greedy uncle got what he deserved
    Brody M Super Reviewer

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