On January 6, 2002, the body of Christa Worthington was found in her home in Truro, Massachusetts. Her death was ruled a homicide; the film Murder on Cape Cod draws inspiration from her case. Directed and co-written by Arthur Egeli (Ghost Forest), the film tells the story of an out-of-work fisherman who begins an affair with a fashion writer. The result is a draggy film, but one that benefits from strong performances and some fine writing.
Mike Luna (Josh Walther, who makes his film debut here) has a loving family – wife Nancy (Heather Egeli) stays put with the children – but is frustrated in his inability to find a boat to keep up his livelihood. Eventually, Mike settles to work with Jimmy (Kevin Cotter) in making sure the townspeople have licenses to fish. While going through the motions at work, he meets Elizabeth (Jade Harlow), a fashion writer from New York on holiday to the Cape for the winter – she is joined by Peter (Tim Misuradze), who works as her assistant.
We can see that she is attracted to Mike and quite soon, both Mike and Elizabeth embark on an affair. The romance in the film surprisingly credible with Walther and Harlow displaying great chemistry with one another. Things start to heat up, however, once Elizabeth becomes pregnant – though Mike was told that she was unable to bear children. While exited to have a child, Elizabeth is treated with anger and sudden abandonment from Mike.
Fast-forward two years as Elizabeth returns back to the Cape with child Henry in tow. Noticeably upfront is the disconnect between Elizabeth and still residing Peter, who is fully aware that Mike is Henry’s true father. What’s striking is how fast Egeli brings the child into the story – the film just plants the two years in the next shot without so much as a break detailing what’s happened to Mike and Elizabeth during the break.
Without revealing too much, poor Elizabeth ends up being killed and the focus changes to trying to figure out who did it; but the film doesn’t focus on any investigative details whatsoever. Mike ends up spilling his guts to his wife about his affair just before Elizabeth dies, but her murder and investigation are cut so short, and that is quite disappointing. The film ends too soon, and it’s a bit confusing as to why there was no focus on the reaction of the town, or the result of what happened to little Henry.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Despite a disappointing conclusion, for the most part, Murder on Cape Cod is fairly enjoyable, most thanks to the strong rapport between Walther and Harlow. The true story behind this film is tragic but any sense of gravity is missing from here, unfortunately. However, the direction and writing is strong for the most part, from striking establishing shots to grounded, lived-in dialogue; I just wish that more time was spent on the investigation.