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Murder on the Cape

In tourist areas, there's often a deep divide between the locals and those who come from out of town to enjoy the sights -- a social, financial, and cultural gap that can sometimes seem impossible to bridge in any real way. As shown in Murder on the Cape, the Cape Cod area is no exception to this rule, with the locals sometimes struggling to keep a roof over their heads while rich New Yorkers relax in their vacation homes.

Elizabeth (Jade Harlow) isn't extremely rich but can afford to winter on the Cape -- she's a well-known fashion writer, who her more struggling writer / neighbor Peter (Tim Misuradze) practically worships. Despite this adoration -- or perhaps because of it -- Elizabeth is much more interested in Mike Luna (Josh Walther), a local fisherman currently without a boat who's working as a shellfish warden to make ends meet. When he helps Elizabeth light a fire in her fireplace (which sounds simple but I've never been much good at it, either), she's completely smitten and an affair soon follows.

There are two problems with the relationship: the aforementioned chasm that separates visitors from natives, and Mike's wife, Nancy (Heather Egeli). They have two kids and it's a small enough town that an affair isn't an easy secret to keep. It's especially hard to hide when Mike's friend, a low-level criminal named Sammy (Chris Lazzaro) knows about it, since Sammy can't keep quiet to save his life. He's the main informant for the local sheriff, Jimmy (Kevin Cotter), and a minion for Carlos (John Clayton), who's ostensibly a fisherman but has several less savory jobs on the side. With all these people in a small space things are bound to go wrong, and when death inevitably strikes there's no shortage of suspects.

It's a fictionalized version of the real Christa Worthington murder case, and it does suffer from a few of the common issues of films based on true events -- the build of tension is a bit slow, and many of the legalities are ignored or glossed over. But the characterization is excellent -- no one here is an angel and their flaws, from Nancy's temper to Sammy's cowardice, make them all very real and their conflicts believable. There's also a wonderful sense of place, with the Cape itself a vibrant and fascinating part of the narrative. I'll give it four out of five stars -- it's worth a watch particularly for fans of true crime, or even fans of the wild and windswept New England area.

Mike and Elizabeth in a tense moment with a gorgeous sunset behind them.


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