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Scottish BAFTA winner The Dark Mile is a tense psychological thriller about a couple (who happen to be lesbians) setting out on a boat trip in Scotland to help recover from a recent trauma.

Rebecca Calder and Deirdre Mullins shine as the principals: Calder’s Louise the more introverted and ethereal, with Mullins’ Claire more of a fish out of water once outside the metropolis, constantly banging on about the lack of wi-fi like a surly teenager on a family holiday.

I loved Sheila Hancock’s supporting role. Hancock, currently stealing the show in Sky One’s Delicious and regularly outwitting contestants half her age on Radio 4’s Just a Minute must, by now, be afforded the status of Official National Treasure. Let’s make it happen, people.

As with Vienna in Orson Welles’ The Third Man, or New York in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, the mountains, lochs and glens of Scotland are more than just a setting. They are as intrinsic to the action as any character, yet Gary Love’s direction, some skilled photography and a haunting soundtrack subvert the location’s undoubted beauty, creating a creeping unease and sense of dread which becomes ever more disquieting as the action unfolds. I particularly appreciated the nod to Spielberg’s Duel.

There are, perhaps, a few too many well-worn cinematic tropes for some viewers: a pub which falls aggressively silent as soon as the outsiders walk in, creepy dolls, weird artefacts dangling from trees and so on, but to dwell too much on this would be overly picky. And while the narrative was, at one point, in danger of sagging, the slow crescendo to the film’s third-act denouement was ultimately satisfying.

The Dark Mile is released digitally on 14th January. Find it on iTunes, Xbox, Sony Playstation, Google Play, Amazon, BT Store, Sky Store & Virgin Movies.

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Rob Harkavy

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